I turned 41 this year. The best gift I received was delivered by my little sister. She told me, “I swear, you are more of all the things you’ve ever been — more loud, more confident, more fun, more passionate — and it’s really beautiful.”
Those few sentences, that gift, put things into perspective for me. Ever since my 40th birthday, I have felt a shift in myself. I woke up one morning and I was just…different. I felt happy and confident in a way I never had before. I felt whole, I felt alive, and I was ready to get shit done — shit that was just for me. But these feelings were laced with darkness because it is unnerving to feel and watch yourself become different.
Over a year later, I have realized this is what people are talking about when they say they are having a midlife crisis, and I call bullshit. Let’s stop calling it that. The shift so many of us feel inside ourselves (it seems to come at different ages, at different times in our lives ) is not a midlife crisis at all. You are just becoming more of yourself, more of who you already are. You are getting ready to do the shit.
We are always changing as life goes on. There comes a time when it needs to be about you again. You have done the newborn thing, the toddler thing, maybe the teen thing. The kids start their own journey, their own quest. Little by little, they slip more into their life, and less into yours. They are not so dependent on you. You aren’t wiping butts, cleaning up toys, or hosting playdates. You have been totally devoted, and you still are, you are just able to spend a little more time on yourself.
It can come across as selfish, to others and to yourself, but it’s not selfish. It is a time to push through some insecurities and focus on you. It is your soul speaking to you, and you should (need to) listen.
That doesn’t mean it’s not scary. Change is hard. Especially when you come out of what feels like living the same day over and over for years upon years. Women count on routine; it is a way of surviving those first years of being a new mom. When we are able to breathe a bit, have more free time, or just go up to our room for some uninterrupted moments alone because our kids are older, it can feel like something is off. We may feel guilty or sad. But this is the time when we are able to stop and think about new goals, address old dreams, and work on ourselves.
I had an extremely hard time when my children no longer needed me like they once did. Looking back now, I was almost afraid to face myself. I knew I had some searching to do. I knew I wanted more out of my life than to just be a mother and a wife. That was hard to face, because for the first time in decades, I did not have a plan.
We are all expected to attend school, start growing up, get a job, get married, buy a house, and start a family. It is the path most of us follow. The plan is there, shown to us over and over by our elders, our peers. But, what comes after all those huge milestones have been met? We begin to look at our life and think, Okay, is this what I really want for my second act? Is this the way my life will be until the end of my days?
Sometimes those thoughts make us realize it is time to let go of the things that no longer mean anything to us and relationships that no longer serve us. It is freeing, and the more we get rid of the baggage, the more room we have for the stuff that sets our soul on fire. We tend to stay within our comfort zones. It feels safer than delving into the unknown. That’s why when some break free from it, they are labeled as going through a “crisis.”
In reality, it is not really a crisis at all. It is a new beginning, a journey to self-discovery, a rebirth. It is all of these things, and we are allowed. We are allowed to change, to want different things, to break out of our comfort zones, and become more of ourselves.
So go. Go and do the shit, and don’t let anyone hold you back.