The Myth of the Mid-Life Crisis

The idea of a “mid-life crisis” seems to be this generic catch-all to explain any activity undertaken by a 40-55 year old that appears to be driven by a misguided intent to make up for lost time or recapture a fleeting bit of youth before it slips through the fingers like grains of sand.  In an interesting twist, almost every case I can think of someone saying a person is going through a mid-life crisis is describing a man – no idea why that is, but it just popped into my mind.  A person in the aforementioned age range can do a variety of things that will call up the mid-life crisis moniker:

  • Buy a sports car, motorcycle or any other propelled sort of toy
  • Does something different with their appearance (colors hair, grows a goatee, gets a tattoo for the first time, etc.)
  • Takes up some new sort of hobby that comes from seemingly out of nowhere

There are certainly more, but these are some of the more obvious.

And the label of this mid-life crisis always comes from someone looking on with a disapproving shake of their head and an exasperated comment of, “Well, there it is… Bill is going through a mid-life crisis.  Does he realize how ridiculous he is acting?”

Except here’s the problem with all of the above:

I think 99.99% of it is pure, 100% unadulterated crap.  Truly.

I got thinking about this the other day as I inch ever-closer to my latest milestone birthday of 40 (coming up in November, so plenty of time for y’all to get your shopping in now… I like gadgets, golf, reading and anything involving lifting heavy stuff repeatedly).  I am planning on doing some kind of trip with any family and friends who would like to come along, not as much as a celebration of “LOOK AT SUPER COOL 40 YEAR OLD ME!  BOOM!” and more just a nice chance to spend time with those closest to me.  But in all of this thinking, I also know I have been reevaluating things in my own life and what I would like to do these next few years.

Now, I don’t plan on buying a Corvette, getting blonde hair implants and moving to LA to finally live out a dream of acting… but what occurred to me about the typical idea of a mid-life crisis is that while people may make some big changes in that 40-55 year old age range, it has a ton more to do with the perspective and (hopefully) wisdom you gain with time and less to do with chasing lost youth.

Are there people who probably meet the criteria of a stereotypical mid-life crisis?  Of course there are.

But for the most part?  I seriously doubt it.

So a 50 year old guy buys a Porsche and it’s the first time in his life he has had a snazzy car.  Maybe he has realized that he has spent a lifetime scrimping and saving and having his nose to the grindstone and finally found a way to just have some fun.

The 45 year old lawyer who decides to get a tattoo for the first time?  Maybe he is just comfortable enough in his own skin to do something different and has finally hit that point in life where the tsk-tsking opinions of others don’t mean doodly-squat.

Heck, my deciding to grow a beard these last 10 days has been nothing more than a “Why don’t I try it?” kind of thing and not a desperate attempt to be different for the sake of being different.  And let’s face facts – I am one handsome SOB.  Take your time to appreciate this for a few minutes before reading on.  I can wait… it will be well-worth your time.

Photo on 7-9-12 at 7.38 AM

Me in all my handsome, shaggy glory.

The best thing about getting older is the perspective you gain on life and the increasingly clear realization that it is your life, only your life and if you live it solely based on the expectations of others as opposed to being true to thine own self, you will end up bitterly disappointed.

And that’s my view as a guy just south of the big 4-0: Put yourself out there.  Try stuff.  VERY few mistakes are fatal and many can be kind of fun.  You have to answer to only yourself at the end of the day (or your deity of choice if you are a believer).

I am still way less-than-perfect at this kind of thing, but damn… I am trying hard.

The final piece of advice: Don’t go and do anything or buy anything just because you feel it will make you cooler, hipper or anything along those silly lines.  But if it’s something important to you?  Or even just something that would be interesting to give a run?  Godspeed.  We are each figuring this out as we go and it’s that process that means the most in the end.

10 thoughts on “The Myth of the Mid-Life Crisis”

  1. Now I totally feel bad for accusing one of my dad’s co-workers, and a fellow member of our Pratt-Folks-From-FL Group, of being in a mid-life crisis at our 4th of July BBQ when he pulled up in a BMW convertible! Haha, what timing. His wife agreed with me wholeheartedly, but he seemed a bit miffed. It probably didn’t help his case that the two of them are also taking themselves and that car and moving to Cali. Honestly, when I heard that last part, all I could be was JEALOUS of him! I think maybe we say people are in a mid-life crisis if they are doing things we can’t find a “reason” for why we’d ever want to do that ourselves. But once they are doing something we’d be interested in, it becomes “awesome!” (sorry I know how you feel about overuse of that word).
    What I’m trying to say here is, I feel you on this. And I feel bad for calling Mr. Sullivan a mid life crisis participant. AND I can’t believe you’re almost 40. Legit surprised. And as Ke$ha would say, “I like your beard.”

  2. Haha! I am sure I have done the same thing as you in calling someone out on that kind of purchase. I think, for me, that a real case can be made that with years can come a certain amount of perspective that we should consider. I haven’t cornered the market on that wisdom at all, but I also know that I find myself viewing so much these days from a very different lens. I would bet that someone people would read my post and think I am deluding myself… and those snot-nosed punks can think whatever they want!

  3. Well, I’ll be 60 in a couple of weeks and I’m still waiting for my midlife crisis. It might come when I finally get to wear a cowboy hat, a damn big buckle and a pair of Dingo Boots – without feeling out of place. I recently mentioned in another blog that with getting a little older, I do feel a sort of freedom about expressing my opinion. Unfortunately, it’s not really appreciated here in the very liberal Northeast but Hey! I’m an old(er) guy and I’m just trying to help educate the liberal wasteland that is Connecticut!

  4. Love the topic… I’m 48 facing 50 in two years. I feel younger today then when I was 18.. Last week I finally bought a vette.. reason for buying, ‘I wanted one!’ I bought used.. Not new.. but Man I love to drive a powerful car. Anyways, I look at my life and realize it’s all good. zoom zoom… work hard, always play hard. :)

  5. Excellent post Kevin.

    I’m in my mid-forties, although I look younger and people are often slightly astonished when I tell them how old I am. When I was in my early thirties, I thought I was “getting old”, and as stupid as that was, I actually got a little depressed thinking about it, lol.

    Now that I am a forty-something, I think of myself as a teenager with a little bit of wisdom and experience added under the belt. I intend on taking that attitude into my centenarian years.

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