Monday, January 11, 2010

Hello 2010, hello midlife crisis

2010 is a brand new year, with all the usual resolutions and determinations to make this new year the best one ever. It's also the year I turn 40 in late October. I'm having a hard time processing this concept. I've only begun acknowledging it verbally, casually slipping it into conversations like I was contemplating this new stage. As if I had a choice to turn 40 or not, like whether I should join a gym or maybe get another dog.

The TV series thirtysomething was popular while I was in college, but I never watched it because it seemed too old. I couldn't relate to the characters in my late teens and early twenties. Good grief....they were in their thirties for pete's sake! Now, twenty years later, I can only call myself "thirtysomething" for ten more months before I'm officially "fortysomething." Time does fly.

But while it may be socially appropriate to lump me in the "middle aged" demographic now, I don't feel particularly old. I'm not really sure what middle aged means to my generation and I'm not sure how I'm supposed to act at this age. Heck, I'm still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. While I've left those wild college years far behind me, I'm in no rush to embrace the stodgy lifestyle that so defined my concept of "middle aged" back when I was in college. (That's college the first time around, not the 7.5 years I spent in grad school later on.)

Then suddenly in the past year, more and more of my cohorts began talking about having a midlife crisis. Buying motorcycles, getting tattoos....and those are the women. I have a strong suspicion that a former college roommate got a boob job as part of her midlife crisis. Mind you, none of these choices are particularly daring in terms of standard social norms, but they're big changes for the people who made them. I'm not sure if they represent a last grab at youth or maybe they're more of a thumb to the nose of that "middle aged" label.

I'd rather thumb my nose at the label than chase my youth. Frankly, my youth is so far behind me that I'd have to reverse directions and run a long time to catch up with it. And then what? I'll never be young again because I have experience now, I have learned how to avoid those awkward pitfalls of my younger years, and I'm glad to have them behind me. No, I don't need to go there again.

I'd rather continue going forward, but on my own terms. I won't deny my age, but why should I let it define me? And even if I'm not going to chase my youth, why shouldn't I have a midlife crisis anyways? It's a chance to do something fun, try something new. Oh, don't get me wrong. Often I wonder if I've made the right choices and I question the purpose of life and maybe, just maybe I worry about my mortality in the wee hours of the morning when the insomnia hits hard. But nothing is going to change the fact that I turn 40 this year and I'll be in my mid 50s when my daughter graduates from high school and packs up her suitcase for college. I can't do a damn thing about my age, but I'm determined to have a good time regardless.

I'm not sure what I'll do or how my midlife crisis will take shape. I think midlife crises are best identified years later with hindsight. Mine might be big or it might be small, but I'm ready to give it a warm hug whenever it shows up. I'm already taking fledgling steps down a new career path (or two). Maybe I'll finish that novel that's been floating around in my mind. Maybe I'll open a small shop. I could breed prize-winning amaryllis bulbs, travel to New Zealand, or start a dachshund rescue. Or maybe I'll just get that tattoo.

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