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Last week, I was talking to a friend about my upcoming attempt to complete my first triathlon. Not for the first time, I said, “It’s such a crazy thing to do. So totally not like me. I still don’t understand what made me want to try this.”
And my friend, who is smart and insightful said, “Sure you do. It’s your mid-life crisis.”
Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t figure that out on my own. The second she said it; I knew it was true. But something about that made what I’m trying to do feel smaller somehow. And a little foolish.
You Say Crisis Like It’s A Bad Thing
The phrase “mid-life crisis” just sounds so predictable and petty and, though I know my friend didn’t mean it like that, a little like a put down. It’s a phrase that conjures up images of paunchy, gray-hair men driving around in red convertibles – a silly, somewhat ridiculous stage.
But then I started thinking, just because something is predictable doesn’t necessarily make it silly, does it? If mid-life and the accompanying crisis is a common and forseeable stage of life, does that make it any less important or meaningful than other life stages?
The terrible twos are a necessary stage to allow helpless infants to become independent thinkers, with opinions of their own. Adolescence, while often a pain for parents, is an important stage of life, helping children begin the transition toward adulthood.
Though these and other stages of life may be predictable, they’re far from petty. The transition from one stage of life to the next is a sign that a person is growing, progressing, and learning.
Right now, that describes me to a tee. I’m growing, progressing, and learning – still.
If you’re a woman in midlife, chances are good that this describes you too.
Having learned so well that time passes quickly, we’re impatient to make the most of every minute. In these years beyond fifty, we’re eager to be, and do, and experience as much as we can, while we can.
Embracing the Crisis
You know what I think?
I think we should embrace our midlife crisis, making as much of it as we possibly can.
We are a youth worshipping society, there’s no question about it. But reaching middle age doesn’t have to mean the beginning of the downhill slide. For many people, it’s just the opposite.
Don’t believe me? Consider the following…
At age 38, Pearl S. Buck published her first novel, over the next 42 years, she would go on to write 42 more novels and win both a Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature.
At age 49, Julia Child published her groundbreaking cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. She started hosting her PBS television show “The French Chef” at age 51.
At age 52, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, known as “Doctor Ruth”, started hosting her own radio talk show about sex, which would be nationally syndicated.
At age 54, Annie Jump Canyon became the first astronomer to classify stars according to spectral type.
At age 64, Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida.
At age 64, Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing her Little House On The Prairie series. She published the last book in the series at age 76.
At age 72, Margaret Ringenberg piloted a plane around the world.
At age 75, Barbara Hillary, a cancer survivor, was the first black woman to reach the North Pole.
At age 76, Grandma Moses started painting and continued doing so for another 25 years, creating more than 1,000 paintings in her lifetime.
At age 86, Katherine Pelton beat the men’s world record for the 200-meter butterfly in that age group by more than 20 seconds.
At age 87, Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science Monitor.
At age 95, Nola Ochs became the oldest person to receive a college diploma.
You Do You
Whatever it is that you’re yearning to do, don’t allow other people’s preconceived notions about age – or even your own – get in your way. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort it takes to fulfill your dreams, then fulfill them you will.
If you have always wanted to write a book, then write a book.
If you’ve always wanted to get your degree, then get your degree.
If you’ve always wanted to travel to Italy, then travel to Italy.
If you’ve always wanted to become a missionary, then become a missionary.
If you’ve always wanted to run for office, then run for office
If you’ve always wanted to start a business, then start a business.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to sail, or swim, or mountain climb, or hike the Pacific Crest Trail, or ski, or sew, or paint, or learn Spanish, or run a triathlon, or do anything that you’ve been putting off, then do it.
Just do it.
No more excuses. No more letting fear stand in your way. No more anything that stops you from doing, and being, and experiencing all that you can during the amazing and utterly fierce stage of life!
Make a plan! Announce it to the world! Then follow through with it! And if anybody accuses you of having a mid-life crisis say…
“Darn right, I am. And I’m making the most of it!”