My 25 year old daughter called when I was writing this blog, so I shared it with her. I'm still getting used to the idea of my "child" offering me good advice, even though she's always been wise beyond her years. Kate thought that this blog was "more heady" than my others and so I should give my readers the head's up that I've not switched gears on them. Consider yourselves forewarned...
Some people argue that they are too young to be in midlife because the thought of life being half over is just too depressing. But, the fact remains that we all will face into it whether we like it or not. Perhaps if we knew more about this phase of life, we might be less adverse to it and might even see the opportunity it offers for significant change and growth.
is thought to begin around age 36-38. It is this early stage of midlife that is typically associated with the dreaded “midlife crisis” coined by noted psychoanalyst Erik Erikson
. Some of us can recount stories of people turning their lives upside down in the blink of an eye, never to look back on the life they’d spent years developing. While the midlife years are meant to stir up new ways of interfacing with the world as we develop the lesser-known parts of ourselves, it is not a given that they are fraught with drama and chaos. A more positive way to think of midlife is as a compelling quest—but a quest whose end is not always evident to the seeker. This lack of direction or road map makes many people uncomfortable with, if not opposed to, embarking on the journey at all.
I am particularly fascinated by the concept of midlife and the ensuing second half of life years because of their impact on people’s attitudes toward work. Admittedly, I may have a skewed view of the population at large because my career counseling clients in the second half of life years arrive at my door ready on some level for the journey. I realize that not everyone excitedly heeds the call to pursue the quest for “je ne sais quoi”.
Midlife questions and accompanying malaise with life may leave a person wondering what’s up, only to know that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Being clueless is often a new phenomenon and very disconcerting to the attorney, teacher, writer or corporate executive who formerly moved ahead in his or her life with clarity and direction.
What I know about midlife is that there is a compelling nature about it that can temper the uneasiness that uncertainly brings. This causes people to take action, not always cognizant of why or what the outcome might be. The reward is satisfying at the level of the letting go. In some cases, individuals rely on their intuition to guide them and eventually become appreciative and trusting of another aspect of themselves not always seen as credible.
Midlife and the second half of life are about integration and wholeness
. This may be evident as a person begins to think about a former passion or hobby they’ve not engaged in for years, a desire for meaningful work that honors a long-held value, or a different career path that incorporates key skills and abilities that have surfaced no matter the job title or employment setting.
The challenge of midlife is to be open to emerging thoughts and insights, rather than suppress them because of a lack of understanding of what they mean or fear of where they might lead. Jung gave us permission to accept this challenge and approach life with a different script when he said: We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the life’s morning”.
What are your midlife and work questions and challenges?
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