The thing about mid-life crises is that the experience is transitional. It is not that you are in an ambiguous state, but rather you recognize the beginning of a transformation from what life has been thus far for yourself and what it will be going forward. This often brings about very mixed and confusing emotions and thoughts. You find yourself asking yourself questions you never considered before. And sometimes your answers are frighteningly candid. This can lead to feelings of depression, not necessarily because you are sad, but often because you are unsure how to feel about this revelation or new perspective.
I am unashamed to admit that I am in full fledged mid-life crisis mode right now.
In fact, being honest with myself and anyone who cares to read these posts, I have been in this transitional phase for roughly 2 years now. What scares me the most is that I do not have any idea when the "end" will be. I would have guessed that the crisis would only last a few months or years, but I am beginning to feel and think that it all has to do with how you transition to the future YOU.
Let me share an example for anyone who is not understanding what I am trying to convey here about the transitional nature of a mid-life crisis.
Recently at work I was impacted by a large change. Two-thirds of my team (14 of 22 direct reports) were reassigned to my Manager so that I could begin taking on the responsibility of our new hires in the Sales group. This was a major change to be sure, but I have cycled through dozens of direct reports in my 7 years as a Supervisor, including some that involved nearly as many people.
So why does this change feel so different?
The best answer I have come up with is that my perspective is very different. I have long considered myself to be a genuinely caring individual. When I express compassion or empathy or ask questions to get to know someone better, it is not just because I am supposed to ... it is because I truly am interested and do care about them.
But as this change happened, I began reflecting on many of my peers (I consider direct reports to be my peers even if I am technically "the boss") at work who have come and gone over the years. There are maybe only a handful that I chat with on even an acquaintance basis. Despite my perceived genuine concern for them, when the reporting relationship ended, so did almost all of my initiated interest in them. Almost never do I reach out to any of them just to see how things are going for them. So doesn't that very strongly support the argument that I don't actually care about them?
The worst part, for me, is that I began thinking through this as related to my friendships. I have always considered myself to be a true friend. Someone you can count on to be there for you whenever you might need me. Someone who wants to hear about your struggles or concerns or answer your questions or just hang out and do nothing (if that's what you need). But ... as I think about my friendships over the years, there are almost none where I really make an effort to be a friend unless it happens to be convenient (they work near me, live near me, or I happen to see them at church or basketball or scouts, etc.)
This, and this alone, is the kind of self-awareness which has the capacity to excite my mind with new possibilities (how much easier would life be if I didn't actually have to care?) while also filling my mind with great depression and disappointment about the person I might actually be (what if I've never really cared and my ability to "let things go" is actually a detriment rather than a strength?)
I don't have the answers. I have some of the questions but I don't necessarily want to ask them. I am NOT on the verge of a breakdown, but I am on the verge of likely making major changes in the person I am. I want to keep the genuine good parts of myself and discard the baggage or pretentious parts of my personality. But sifting through 35+ years of experiences takes time. And being honest with myself about who I am willing to commit to being is exhausting.
To be continued ... :)
Song Of The Day:
One thing (among many) that does remain constant is my absolute love of music. The joy I feel when listening to creative expression through sound is one of many experiences I will never regret and will always continue to seek out. Today's song is an anthem of sorts related to that. I know some people have strong opinions about John Mayer, but one of his songs from his first CD is titled "Not Myself" and it often comes to mind when I am feeling a little out of sorts. Some of the lyrics ask the question "would you want me when I'm not myself? wait it out while I am someone else?" I am hopeful that the people I love in my life will stick with me as I continue my mid-life crisis transition.