Midlife Crisis

N and I are arguing about midlife crisis. He’s convinced that a midlife crisis only has to do with being dissatisfied with your personal life. (Ergo, he and I can’t have midlife crises because our personal life is sensational).

I disagree because to me a midlife crisis can also be about being dissatisfied with your professional or social life. Or any large aspect of your life, really. Which is why I insist that I did experience a midlife crisis. It lasted for about two years and had everything to do with my professional life. It ended somewhere last November after one meeting I had.

“Then why do all books and movies portray having a midlife crisis as being unhappy in your personal life?” N asks. “Can you name one work of art where a person realizes they are unhappy because they need a new profession?”

“Yes!” I exclaim. “It’s Don Quixote!”

16 thoughts on “Midlife Crisis”

  1. A number of people IRL change careers or add a second career in the middle age, so it’s not just about the personal life, although it can be. I have been in the throes of a raging midlife crisis for several years, with no end in sight. I think the hallmark of a midlife crisis is the question “Seriously, this is all there is?” or “I’ve done everything I’ve set out to do. Now what?”Basically, re-evaluating of priorities and crafting a new set of goals that no longer hinge heavily on education or reproduction but tend to be better aligned with a mature individual’s core values and their true passions (many of which were neglected since childhood in the pursuit of lucrative career and/or mating prospects).

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  2. I never thought much about a “MLC” until very late, as I approached retirement, my wife bought me a leather bomber jacket. I asked her when the Harley was going to be delivered. 🙂
    Bomber jacket was great, still wear it several years later. No, the Harley never arrived.

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  3. Yes, DQ as book about midlife crisis is always interesting to talk about. Midlife crisis is when modern men get red convertibles or something . . . and DQ goes off on his quest.

    I was surprised to hear midlife crisis was supposed to be at 35, halfway through life if life is 70. Like Dante. I thought that in our era it was a 40s or 50s thing, starting sometime after you get tenure or the equivalent thereof, or when your kids are teenagers and roll their eyes at your antics. I thought it was something of men, therefore definitely career related, and that getting a younger girlfriend was just a symptom of it, it was about career and identity.

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    1. It may be cultural, but for us midlife crisis is first and foremost about the decline of sexual function in men and reproductive function in women. This is why we are debating it.

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      1. Oh, that’s 40s and 50s then, depending on your biology and so on. I think people in good relationships may not go through it as severely but I remember my parents complaining about it in early 50s. My great grandmother had a big fight with her kids about it, severe emotional crisis with menopause. Kids, who were suffragists, feminists, stuff like that believed that you only suffered to that degree if you had your identity defined in a really retrograde way, thought you shouldn’t give menopause so much power for the same reasons as you shouldn’t think having periods made girls less competent.

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  4. The only people who go through a “midlife crisis” are misguided individuals who believe that life — specifically theirs — is supposed to have a point in the first place.

    If our hominid ancestors hadn’t been born with canine teeth and eaten too much meat, all that excess protein wouldn’t have gone to their heads and given them a brain that’s too big for some people to handle.

    They don’t understand that the human race is a fluke of nature, a once-in-a-million roll of the evolutionary dice that will eventually tumble back down to snake-eyes, and leave the universe as devoid of sentient but fleeting thoughts as when it all began.

    Still, the transient trip from nowhere to nowhere is worth it, while it lasts.

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    1. One of the narratives I’ve heard about it is that it’s about individuation (in modern bourgeois society). If you’ve done everything “right” but didn’t go through adolescent rebellion enough, or early 20s exploration enough, you find yourself at 40 or so still trying to define an independent identity and not sure the one you’ve got is you, so you go into wild antics. I have no idea whether this is accurate

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    2. “The only people who go through a “midlife crisis” are misguided individuals who believe that life — specifically theirs — is supposed to have a point in the first place.”

      This is such an obnoxious comment. You didn’t have a midlife crisis? Good for you! But there is research showing that a vast majority of people in the developed or semi-developed world do go through some form of midlife crisis. According to my analyst, there’s work dating all the way back to Jung and Freud on why it happens and why it’s “developmentally appropriate.”

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      1. Exactly. It’s developmentally appropriate and the people who never have it are simply those who never matured enough to get to that stage.

        You’ve got to feel something as you reach different stages of life. Unless you are a robot or an emotionally stunted person. If you are never confused or bothered or saddened by reaching different stages, I’m sorry, but something is not completely right with you.

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      2. “This is such an obnoxious comment.”

        Well, I’m glad my comment offended somebody. 🙂

        The reason that “a vast majority of people in the developed or semi-developed world do go through some form of midlife crisis” while the majority of people in the “undeveloped world” don’t is simple: People in the “undeveloped world” have more existential things to worry about — like basic day-to-day survival and safety — than what the all-important purpose of their life is supposed to be.

        Nope, didn’t have a mid-life crisis. But when I was 31 years old and had an established medical career as a civilian psychiatrist in Southern California, I found myself extremely bored with the state of affairs, and decided after not-very-much consideration to join the Air Force and start a new career living all over the world instead. It all worked out amazingly well.

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        1. Actually, as somebody from an underdeveloped country, I can say that this concept is not in the least alien to us. We even have a saying “the wartime age,” making a play on words on the years 1941-45 when we were in WWII. It’s funny because 41 to 45 is when we usually get our midlife crises. The life expectancy is shorter, so it’s a bit earlier than in richer countries.

          The reason why non-Western countries don’t have this concept is that they don’t share the vision of an individual as a constantly evolving self-contained unit. It’s a very Western idea and only a Western subjectivity goes through these stages. Of course, as globalization Westernizes the world, this subjectivity becomes more and more available (and very attractive) to the elites of non-Western cultures.

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          1. “It’s a very Western idea and only a Western subjectivity goes through these stages. Of course, as globalization Westernizes the world…”

            So as advanced modern Western civilization continues to colonize/globalize the world, we take our modern technology and religion and neuroses along with us?? Got it!

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        2. “I found myself extremely bored with the state of affairs, and decided after not-very-much consideration to join the Air Force and start a new career living all over the world instead. It all worked out amazingly well.”

          So you did actually have a midlife crisis (“I found myself extremely bored with the state of affairs”), but, since you were unencumbered by familial relationships, you could just leave once you decided you wanted to. Most people in their forties or thereabout cannot. I am the primary breadwinner and will be 60 when my youngest finishes college. I would love to just leave everything behind and go try to make a living as a screenwriter or move to Australia to do whatever or half a dozen other options, but I cannot, because there are people who depend on me financially and emotionally. Most folks have similar restraints. The midlife crisis stems from the conflict between the responsibilities of adulthood and the unfulfilled desires of youth, which comes to a head once a person has reached the end of the blueprint (education, mate selection/family, professional ascent).

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          1. “So you did actually have a midlife crisis…but, since you were unencumbered by familial relationships, you could just leave once you decided you wanted to.”

            We can quibble over the definition of “crisis” (which I define as a situation with no easy solution; otherwise, all you have is a “problem”), but you’re absolutely right:

            All my life I’ve been unencumbered by personal or professional relationships that stopped me from saddling up and riding out of town when I felt like it was time to move on, and I’m quite satisfied with the end result.

            Of course, mid-life crises are real (I had my share of patients who were going through them), but there’s no requirement that every intelligent human being spend part of his/her life worrying about the big picture or where he/she fits in all of it. I never have. Still don’t.

            If “something is not completely right with [me]” as Clarissa suggests, that’s okay. Whatever it is doesn’t need fixing.

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  5. The only people who go through a “midlife crisis” are misguided individuals who believe that life — specifically theirs — is supposed to have a point in the first place.Nope, didn’t have a mid-life crisis. But when I was 31 years old and had an established medical career as a civilian psychiatrist in Southern California, I found myself extremely bored with the state of affairs, and decided after not-very-much consideration to join the Air Force and start a new career living all over the world instead
    Interesting. Dreidel seems to belong to a school of thought that states that existentialists do not have mid life crises and professional or job disatisfaction crises do not count.

    People in the “undeveloped world” have more existential things to worry about — like basic day-to-day survival and safety — than what the all-important purpose of their life is supposed to be.
    Yeah, you don’t read very much. Because the generalization is not even sort of right.

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