Age is something we ignore after we turn 21. There are no more exciting birthdays. No joy in getting older after that point. It’s just counting down the years till death. Really! Who says, “Yay! I’m gonna be 40 tomorrow!!”
We stop aging on the inside before we turn 30 anyway. We become the age we liked the best. Our best young self. I will be 19 forever. It was my happiest time as a young adult. I am now a wiser 19. I am an older 19. But still that is who I think I am. Somehow I forget about the older and wiser part and assume I will see a 19 year old in the mirror every morning. It’s not just me. Most of us do it. And we will do it more often as we become older. This body can’t be mine. These wrinkly old hands can’t be mine. I can see just as well as I always could. My hearing is fine, I’m just ignoring you.
I’ve read so much in the past year about what a midlife crisis is and what it isn’t and why it happens. In a nutshell, it seems our 40’s are a time of deep reflection. We are accepting in some ways that this is the pinnacle of our careers and possibly our lives. It is a time to accept that things may not get any better and that may actually be alright. Anger is on its way out and acceptance is on its way in. Competition is stepping aside for community. In ways, great and small, we acknowledge that we may never reach our fanciful goals of scaling Everest, writing a popular novel, and becoming CEO. At the same time we learn that our accomplishments are still gratifying. Perhaps we spend this time in morning for the person we had wished for and learning to celebrate the person that we are.
It seems to be a transition that people make no matter their social or economic status. Midlife is midlife no matter where you turn. Accepting that we are flawed, finite beings takes some time. Some people have suggested that it can take up to a decade to move past the lull and into the upswing that is the rest of our lives. People, it seems, become happier as they age. So at some point my happy best me will be 55 or 63. Many people actually become happier as older adults than they ever were in their youth. Maybe when we have worn our body down we become more comfortable in it. I’m ok with that. Giving up the angst of youth for contentment sounds great even if it does come with wrinkly skin and gray hair.
I had expected that my midlife personal drama would fade as my 41st birthday approached. I don’t know why, but I assumed this midlife crisis was indeed a crisis and not a lifestyle. I guess we can now call it a phase. What’s ten years, right? It sounds like it will give me just enough time to learn to drop the pretense and accept that I’m average and that being average is alright. It’s actually more than alright. The average woman in the U.S. lives to be 81. If nothing else, being average means I have another 40 years to figure this life thing out.