As a woman firmly settled in my 40s, I’ve noticed that just about every conversation about this time in our lives centers in some way on an age old myth. It’s in bestselling books and cliché jokes and hushed comments about Joanna down the street who just quit her job as an investment banker and dyed her hair bright blue.
The dreaded midlife crisis.
Earlier this year, Ada Calhoun’s book “Why Women Can’t Sleep: The New Midlife Crisis” rocked the bestseller lists. Women around the country (and maybe even around the world) held her book up high in their sweaty hands and praised it for its accuracy. For good reason. Calhoun speaks to the reality that many of us are feeling these days, but there it is again. Midlife crisis. The “new” midlife crisis. CRISIS.
For the love, people, can we please stop referring to this time in our lives as a crisis?!
Are we confused? You bet.
Do we sometimes feel inexplicably angry? For sure.
Do we want to set our lives on fire and start fresh? All the time.
Are we putting pink streaks in our hair and getting back tattoos and wearing leopard print pants and leaving toxic relationships and quitting our jobs and going back to school and moving across country? Sure.
Do we lie awake at night, sweaty with our minds racing, worried about whether our teen is smoking pot and if our mom forgot to pay her electric bill and why our BFF hasn’t returned our text from three days ago? Ummm… yeah.
But is this a crisis? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
Let me be very clear, our 40s are not some blissful utopia. We are confused and frustrated and angry and emotional and weepy and sweaty – so damn sweaty. We are low-grade terrified all the time and we alternate between wanting to scream and cry (or sometimes both at the same time).
But this is not a crisis. This is being human. This is the refusal to pretend that everything is “fine.” This is what bravely stepping fully into the human experience looks like. It’s not our fault the world is scared of what that looks like so we need to be labeled as “hot-headed” and “emotional” and in “crisis.”
We have all been so conditioned that life takes a certain trajectory and looks a certain way. Go to school, dress the part, get a job, get a better job, have kids, buy a house, take care of everything and everyone, lose a shit ton of sleep, get a promotion, buy a bigger house, send your kids off on their own, wonder what the fuck happened to your life.
Well, you know what? Fuck that noise.
We’re tired of the hamster wheel of striving. We don’t want to keep pretending because we’re exhausted AF and it takes too much work. We realize that all those “shoulds” that were hammered into our psyches by well-meaning but disillusioned teachers and guidance counselors and parents and friends don’t mean shit. Unfortunately it takes many of us several decades to realize this, but once we do, we become incapable of unseeing it all.
The amazing thing is that, as we enter this confusing-scary-liberating stage of life, we are shedding those old and often destructive ways of thinking. We’re sweating out those old ideals with our hot flashes.
Some of us are letting go of friendships or other relationships that we should have said goodbye to years ago. We’re wearing clothes we had always been told were “inappropriate” because who decides what’s appropriate anyway. We’re quitting jobs that don’t fulfill us. We’re going back to school. Or maybe we’re getting off the career ladder entirely because leaning in is exhausting and we’d rather have a nap.
We’re skipping moms’ night outs to day-drink with a couple of close friends because we want to be with people who get us. We’re dying our hair and getting tattoos and piercing our nose because – hello! – those things are fun as hell. Maybe we’re selling our house to drive an RV across country or we’re moving into a tiny house for the summer just because we can.
We’re saying NOPE a hell of a lot more. We’re speaking up when we see stuff that pisses us off. We’re all set with the bullshit and assholery. We’re walking away. We’re not smiling. We’re unfriending and unfollowing as fast as our fingers can click. We’re turning down invitations. We’re embarrassing the hell out of our kids as we sing loudly to ‘80s hair bands and ‘90s punk rock with the car windows rolled down. And we’ll have a double whiskey on the rocks instead of a glass of pinot grigio, thanks.
We’ve finally realized that what works for others doesn’t necessarily work for us. Just because that’s how it’s “always been done” doesn’t mean that’s the way it always needs to be. We’ve stopped caring whether other people like us and care a hell of a lot more about whether we like ourselves. And we’re giving the middle finger to all those so-called “rules” that weren’t designed with our interests in mind anyway.
Yes, it’s scary and confusing, but it’s also cathartic and freeing. It’s redemptive and fascinating to discover who we really are underneath all armor we’ve had to wear for all many years. We’ve stopped waiting for someone to save us, because all we want to do is get out there and save ourselves. And we’d ask you to kindly get out of our way.
So no, this is not a crisis. It’s an awakening, a celebration, and a motherfucking reckoning.