(This is the first in the series “Revelations of a Middle-Aged Guy in the New Economy.” I’m calling this Nut #1 in honor of the old saying: Every now and then a blind squirrel finds a nut. In this analogy, I’m the blind squirrel. The nuts are essentially lessons from a midlife crisis. But “lessons” sound so boring and “nuts” are much more apropos, in my case.)
The idea of a midlife crisis always seemed like nonsense when I was younger. As a clueless kid I figured it meant a person no longer felt young and responded by getting a red sports car (men) or dying their hair (women).
Years went by, decades passed, and eventually I discovered there was a little more to it than that. I wasn’t immune to a midlife crisis. Turns out it isn’t bullshit. Things that never used to matter—like purpose, and legacy, and what I want from life–started being really important.
Adding to the fun was the fact that my midlife crisis coincided with the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. It’s one thing to be pushing 50 when the economy is good. It’s quite another to personally feel like you’re falling apart at the exact time the country is falling apart, too.
Sadly, I lacked the power to slow the aging process or the financial meltdown. There was nothing I could do. Except consider everything else.
When I asked myself those questions about purpose and legacy I almost always came away with a feeling of discontent. The only solution, in my mind, was to scrap everything that wasn’t working and start over, with the ultimate goal being tranquility and personal fulfillment.
For every facet of my life I asked myself, “Is this working? Is it what I want now? Is it what I want forever? This profession? This house? This relationship? This lifestyle?”
If the answer was “no,” it had to go. It was a scorched earth approach. Nothing escaped scrutiny. Every part of my life was up for review; there were no sacred cows.
Reassessing the fabric of my life also led to fundamental change in much of my value system, as well–like the importance of money, and status, and perception.
My frame of mind around my 50th birthday was largely disappointment. I started feeling as if the life I wanted was unattainable because of actions, or inactions, during the first half of my life. I didn’t want my second half to be burdened by the same lackluster results.
Now, with the crisis well behind me, I see that the roller coaster ride took about five years, roughly between the year I decided to leave my hometown of 42 years and the day my life coach and I developed a life-changing plan to get beyond the crisis.
As I deconstructed the former me, I learned a tremendous amount about who I am and what it means to be alive.
Next week Nut#2: Global Repositioning