According to an article I read a while back, men typically enter a midlife crisis at the age of 43, and this can go on for up to ten years. So, at the ripe old age of 49, this means I must be in the middle of mine right now. But am I really having a midlife crisis?
According to approximately eleventy billion ‘top ten signs you’re having a midlife crisis’ Buzzfeed-style articles, key symptoms of a midlife crisis include buying a sports car, worrying about greying/thinning hair, pronounced weight loss or gain, reminiscing excessively about the past, and thinking about your own (or others’) mortality more.
Guilty as charged?
Let’s review these one at a time.
I do drive a fast, sporty car – but then I’ve always driven fast, sporty cars, so this is hardly a recent development.
I admit that my greying hair does cause me a little angst. (The day I discovered a white nose hair was not my finest.) But equally it’s not something I lose much sleep over. If anything, it’s more of a running joke. (Hey, I still have a full head of hair, so it’s not all bad.)
Weight loss or gain? I’ve shed nearly four stone over the past year. You’ve got me on that one.
Reminiscing about the past? As someone whose blog bio includes the words, “forever stuck somewhere in the mid-1980s”, I can’t really deny it. My kids are constantly rolling their eyes at me because my radio station of choice is either Heart 80s or Absolute 80s. Yes, I admit it: I’ve been living in the past since about, well, 1991. Guilty.
As for thinking about mortality, well, yes, I do. But what do you expect? My parents are 82 and 79 respectively. I’ve been a type 2 diabetic – a condition which comes with increased risk of stroke and other cardiovascular complications – for nearly a decade. In recent years we’ve attended more funerals than weddings. I’m at an age now where it’s pretty much impossible not to think about mortality because it’s always staring you in the face.
So, am I showing some of the classic signs of a midlife crisis? Well, yes. Not all, but certainly some.
I’m getting old. So what?
But does that mean I’m actually having a midlife crisis? I’m not so sure.
Let’s face facts. I’m less than ten months away from turning 50. Statistically, it’s almost certain that I am now nearer the end of my life than its beginning. I have all the aches and ailments that come with the natural wear and tear of a middle-aged body. I can’t bounce out of bed and go straight to work after three hours’ sleep any more. My memory isn’t what it once was. (Although my capacity for retaining useless trivia remains undiminished.)
As sure as night follows day and scandal follows politicians, I’m getting old. That much is indisuptable. But while I’m inarguably in mid-life and I can’t function in the same way I did in my 20s, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m in crisis.
This year it’s 30 years since I left school. So, yes, I’ve spent time recently rekindling old friendships and basking in waves of nostalgia. Am I reliving my youth, like an ageing sports star regaling kids with stories of their glory days? Yes, to an extent. But equally I also work in social media, which is supposed to be a youngster’s game. So maybe I’m still relevant in the present and not totally past it yet. (Although I still don’t ‘get’ the appeal of Snapchat or TikTok.)
Does it also mean I’m trying lots of new things in an attempt to avoid getting stuck in a middle-aged rut? Yes. Getting fit. Doing Parkruns and Tough Mudder. Revamping my wardrobe with more trendy – okay, less untrendy – clothes. Sharing new experiences with my kids. I do all these things for a variety of other, more positive reasons. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t doing them partly as an attempt to stick two fingers up to the creeping onset of old age.
So, yes, I’m getting older. The calendar and the physical signs of ageing are impossible to deny. But have I had a sudden existential crisis? Did I suddenly wake up one day and feel I had to make a load of changes to prove that I’m still young? Am I unhappy with who and how old I am?
No, no and no.
A ‘crisis’ that isn’t really a crisis
If reaching middle-age means a gradual realisation that life is finite and it’s important to live it to the full, then yes, that’s me. But I don’t think that’s actually what a midlife crisis is.
I’m happy with where I am right now in life. Actually, I’ve been much more settled and happy with my life in recent years than I ever was when I was younger. I never really grew comfortable in my own skin until my mid-30s. But I’m much more at ease with who I am now. All I want to do is to embrace the opportunities for change and improvement that life still has to offer.
So, am I having a midlife crisis? No, quite the opposite, because I’m happy with my life. I think of it as more of a … renaissance. I’m not living the second half of my life, trying to arrest my inevitable down-slide. I’m just embracing life’s next phase, with all the ups and downs that entails.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I must make myself a nice mug of Horlicks …