Another birthday and despite the ever increasing aches, fatigues and life changes, I somehow have dodged the mid-life crises. Maybe it is because my failure embracing ethos lets dreams come and go with relative fluidity. But perhaps a good mid-life (or early maturity or late youth) crisis is just what the doctor ordered according to India Knight’s piece “Don’t just wallow: if you want to get a life, get a crisis” (paywalled). She defines different types of ‘life crises’…
- Quarter-life crises come when a person enters adulthood properly — when they move away from home, establish romantic relationships and so on: when they have to decide properly what to do with their lives, basically, because loafing about trying stuff out no longer quite cuts it.
- Midlife crises, as we know, are when middle-aged people start behaving peculiarly because of extreme anxiety about still “having it”; in extreme cases this may involve a radical and startling wardrobe overhaul
- The later-life crisis, a study tells us, affects one in three people over 60. It is often triggered by two or more episodes of loss, such as bereavement, or by someone they are close to becoming ill, or by becoming ill themselves. Unlike the midlife, which seems to me to be broadly about blind panic (“Where’s the time gone?”), the later-life is more meditative and involves taking stock of one’s career and achievements.
Whenever your crisis hits, it is better to embrace it than ignore it…
- “The bad news is that not dealing with a later-life crisis can “accelerate your decline”, according to Dr Oliver Robinson of Greenwich University, who led the research…The good news, though, is that between 40% and 50% of older people going through said crisis emerge feeling better and more positive about life and enjoying it more. And this is true, I think, of all the crises, which shouldn’t be called crises at all but rather re-evaluations and should be viewed not as minor catastrophes but as necessary processes. It is a good idea to re-examine your life in roughly your mid-twenties, instead of coasting along as you have done since you were a child. It is perfectly reasonable to sit up suddenly in middle age and think: blimey, time moves quite fast, what shall I do next? Equally, it is eminently sensible to approach one’s sixties with the sense that there isn’t perhaps an infinity of time left and to take stock. Crises, which are so easy to ridicule as self-indulgence, are about examining and questioning one’s own identity, one’s sense of self, and to try to dump the less appealing aspects of one’s life while concentrating on the better ones…Crises are how people evolve emotionally and while it’s no fun to find yourself in the middle of one, there’s a lot to be said for emerging enlightened at the other end….I am a virulent opponent of wallowing, which is why I am such a fan of the crisis. Wallowing causes you to stagnate, plus it is unbelievably dull for the people who have to listen to your micro-woes in minute detail for months on end. But you know where you are with a crisis: it’s swift, it targets and addresses all the existential issues and then you come out with them sorted and, hopefully, with your life improved.”
Red sports car here I come!