Or Stay At Home

At forty-seven, I am rethinking life.   Not whether to live it, but whether to change it.  If it can be changed.

Fortunately, my mid-life crisis didn’t start until last year, although my ex said his started in his mid-thirties…crying every day at the table for six months.  Another friend in his mid-thirties feels like he’s in a ‘rut’.  Even if the crisis hits men earlier (with their shorter life spans and all), there seems to be a big picture window of time where the mid-life crisis lays dormant, and I was ever so proud of myself for being resolute.  “I am woman, hear me roar” and all that.

Then it came in the night and all of a sudden, it felt, I was no longer satisfied with the direction I’d smugly taken or where I am.

Does this crisis hit everybody?  Is there a point at which every middle-aged person questions where they are now, and whether they want to sustain THE SAME THING for the next 20 years?  So many people of my inner circle of friends and relatives are where I am.  Where every day is almost unbearable in its likeness.

I used to get excited by throwing myself into a new industry to learn, a new thing to conquer.  That’s been my approach in life – conquering things.  I conquered college, I conquered California, I conquered mommyhood; at the same time conquering the financial industry or the wireless communications business, or training.  But now, my excitement has waned.  I’ve had the same occupation for 12 years.  How can I possibly enjoy doing the same thing for the next 20 years?  Welcome, mid-life crisis.  I thought I kept all the doors and windows locked, but you snuck in – someway, somehow.

Worrying about the future makes me think of dreams held in the past.  Dreams of being a veterinarian, an actor, or (sigh) a writer.  I wonder why I didn’t pursue the thing I loved at the time when I was young and fresh and idealistic.  Unencumbered. Agile.

I wonder if I can change at this late date.  I wonder what I’d have to give up (salary?) to start over. I wonder if I can guarantee success. I wonder just how much effort is left in me.  I wonder if there’s time.

In my younger days, it was easy to jump.  I knew I would land.  I once said, “I will never stop riding roller-coasters.”  An older college friend named Mike thought that was profound.  Nowadays, I do still ride the coasters…but then I pay with a sore back or neck for days.  I now understand my mother or grandmother waiting on a bench near the exit, waiting for the young’uns to finish.

The same may apply to new challenges.  It’s gotten a lot harder to weather them.  It’s not as exciting as it used to seem, to jump into the unknown and figure it out.  A little voice in my head has started to say “”I don’t really care” when plodding through my day.  It may be my mid-western work ethic that still responds with ‘if you can’t give it your all, you shouldn’t be there’. So where should I be?

I try to think who my role models could be:  Kathy Bates?  Glenn Close? or even Sting, a teacher who dumped his teaching career to follow a dream.  A wildly successful dream at that.

At this stage in life, where my main goal for the last 13 years has been to make more money to support my family and live comfortably, I am (sorta) there, but it’s no longer enough.  There’s got to be more…I think we should love to get up in the morning.  I think we should love to go to work…not just do it because it’s the norm.  Status quo, complacency, routine – those words are my enemies.

Back when I was ten years old or so, we would clear the table after dinner every night, get out the cards, and play Gin Rummy – some of my best memories as a child.  I’d try to stack the cards in my hand, so that I could ‘lay them down’ all at once.  When my strategy was obvious, the deck was low, and I’d think my victory was imminent, my mother used to say, “come big or stay at home”.

This time, I don’t know what’s in the cards.  So, tell me, how do I play this hand?

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