You show me your mid-life crisis and I’ll show you mine.
I’m noticing a change happening in the world.
Perhaps you have noticed it, too.
I’m not talking about the fact that man buns slowly seem to be on the decline. (Perhaps this is all wishful thinking on our part, anyway.)
Rather, I’m talking about the fact that the conventional wisdom so many of us were raised with is becoming less and less useful.
I have a client I’ll call Joe. Joe is like many of his peers – he was raised in the suburbs of Midwestern America, worked hard in school, graduated from a respected State College U., obtained a corporate job, and has worked his way up the ladder. Ten years ago, Joe met and married Anne, with whom he had two children.
When Joe turned 45, he looked around and realized he had achieved all the things that his parents, his teachers, and the world had wished for him – the job, the large house, the beautiful family.
And yet Joe was miserable. In order to keep up with these things, he was working in a job that increasingly did little to inspire him. He commuted two hours minutes each day in order to afford the larger house and send his kids to “good” schools. He had little time with his family as a result. When he did, he was thinking about work and the piles on his desk. Or escaping in front of the TV.
Joe increasingly had a nagging feeling that he was missing something. He felt most days that he should be enjoying life, instead of fixating on the fact that he had 15 years until he could retire. And the fact that he would be 60 then.
Joe hated himself for having these feelings. He hated that he couldn’t just get over it and be grateful. He hated how stereotypical his mid-life crisis made him feel.
He had the constant feeling that something was bearing down on him and he didn’t know how to stop it.
After all, hadn’t he done everything expected of him?
The thing is, Joe is normal. In fact, Joe is so normal that he doesn’t really exist – he’s a compilation of many clients I’ve had. Many of the people I’ve worked with have an idea that something is off, but they don’t have the first idea how to change it. Or the feeling that they have a right to wish for something different.
This is where unconventional wisdom – and a challenging of what we were taught growing up – comes into play.
This is a difficult process for many of us. We can kind of, sort of, understand that maybe wisdom needs to change and evolve with the ages.
Most of us agree that we probably shouldn’t still use common wisdom from the Dark or Stone Ages.
While most of us understand the need for evolution from thousands of years ago, seeing our parents’ wisdom as outdated is a little more painful.
Also, we have no idea what to replace it with.
One place to start is to ask questions.
Like, “If I’m sacrificing to have the big house and send my children to good schools, so that they can go to a good college, get a good job, and have children some day that they can do the same with, what’s the end game? If I’m miserable in this scenario, why am I wishing that my children repeat it?”
These are hard questions that we are meant to struggle with.
And sometimes it’s easier not to.
But the problem is, this challenge will remain whether or not we deal with it. And when we don’t deal with it, we end up engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as shopping, gambling, having affairs, overeating, hating on ourselves, etc., etc.
So what to do?
Well, one of the very first things we can do is begin to talk about and share our experiences. Trust me when I say that each and every one of us struggles with being human. And way too many of us are struggling with some pretty deep stuff that we don’t share with anyone.
When we share our experiences, they can’t fester inside us and make us feel abnormal.
In sharing our experiences, we can create a community and space in which we can tell the truth about what is working and not working in our lives.
We need to support one another as we find new ways of being. We need to laugh together about how ridiculous life can be and ask, “Seriously, what’s the end game here?”
I believe this can lead to new ideas for looking at life – for turning “conventional wisdom” on its head and offering alternative, more peaceful and logical ways to meet life, given the constant change around us.
Like the fact that maybe we are not meant to be decaying in jobs we hate, passing the time out of some sense of duty so that our children can one day do the same.
That maybe the dreams and hopes we have for our children are just really our own dreams and hopes in disguise.
Or that half of what happens in workplaces is a complete waste of time that we shall from here on out refer to as “the swirl.” And that, yes, the swirl is made 1,000 worse when people like Joe – and so many others – come to work feeling frustrated by emotions that they cannot discuss.
So, today, what’s one step you can take to share your experiences with someone you trust?
Do it as if the world depends on you. Because we kind of do. <3