Recreating Yourself aka Midlife Crisis

Do you ever have a moment where you think, wow, I’d like to halt time, recreate who I am and then start a different life?  Even if your life is good but there’s something just nagging at you, maybe you are not following a dream or trapped in a bad relationship or something your entire self is trying to tell you?  I think everyone has these moments and for me it seems to hit more now that I’m in my mid-40’s and my life is really good.  I believe the magazine writers call it “second act” or “second-half” or well, “midlife crisis”.

But is it really a crisis?  Or is it just a time you pause after being on the same track for many years.  The track of getting through your education, finding a job, forwarding your career or whatever direction you took.  Finding a mate, maybe having a few kids or a houseful of kids, acquiring the typical material possessions such as a home, vehicles, a trip to Disney or whatever it was that you wanted.  Then you reach a certain age and SCREECH.  Everything comes to a halt.

You’re standing there thinking what the hell?  Suddenly you aren’t running kids everywhere, attending twenty-three events in a week for them.  They’re off to college or maybe the older ones out of college.  You aren’t needed every moment of the day.  Then you realize you’re at a good place in your job or whatever career path you chose, maybe you own a successful business.  You’re in a groove, you got it down pat, it’s really not that challenging anymore but you’re in a comfortable place and you make a comfortable living, maybe even more than comfortable.  Your house is stuffed full of things you’ve acquired over the years, your closets are crammed full of clothing where maybe in college, you barely had enough to get by a week.  You’ve arrived.

Okay, so you’ve reached that pinnacle but the thing is, no one told you – “what next?”  or you never really thought about it.  Oh you’ve been saving hard for retirement, you’ll go fishing, travel, watch Wheel of Fortune because you know that show will still be on as Pat and Vanna come out with a wheelchair and walker, that show is never going off the air.  But in a way, you’re a bit in retirement already or it feels that way.  You have a lot more free time and you’re not quite sure what to do with it all.  I’m sure this isn’t everyone, but I’m not one that likes to commit myself to a lot of organizational activities.

You start daydreaming, what do I want to be when I grow up?  Honestly, it is much like when you were in school and you had to start thinking about this question in earnest.  When college recruiters and guidance counselors and teachers were breathing down your neck?  What are you going to do after school?  As if you were supposed to have your entire life figured out by age 17.  I laugh about that now.  Some people know exactly what they want to be by the time they are 10.  “I’m going to be a neurosurgeon.”  I always looked at these people as if they were an alien, that they were so definite in their plans.

Me, I have so many interests and likes that it was more like: “I’m going to own my own business, a florist shop but then I want to have a nursery with it and then a coffee shop where people can enjoy good drinks and pastries but then I will offer art classes and display different artists for sale but then I want o have an animal rescue on part of the property and then…”   By the time I was done, the name of my business would have had to be so long to encompass what I wanted, that no one would really understand what it was.  Actually I envied those people who were so sure of their calling because my calling felt like a career advisor on crack was trying to help me.   My biggest fear was that I would pick the wrong “calling”.

Maybe there is no one certain calling for me.  Which is why I am back to trying on hats, mentally of course, doing research, weighing the pros and cons of different avenues that I could take in my life right now.  Mostly, it’s a creative avenue that doesn’t require me to quit my job and move into another.  I am more likely to tell you what I don’t want to do rather than what I want.  Except writing.  Maybe that is my calling, to finally publish a novel.  Maybe to be a mixed media type of artist and sell my stuff (that I have in my mind and have not created) in different markets.  Or maybe I really am the crazy cat lady and will start a cat rescue where I have hundreds of cats and will then soon be divorced – ha…

In many ways, the ‘crisis’ is not that at all but a valley where you take a few moments out of your life to explore new avenues and try on new identities.  Not that you literally go to some shady guy in the city (or small town probably now) to get a fake ID and passport then disappear leaving your family to believe you are dead.  It doesn’t have to be that drastic.  Now is the time when you start thinking about the things you really enjoy and love, your passions.  There may be ways to not upheave your entire life and still try on the new “you” as you use your new free time that once was monopolized by your children or whatever it was, to focus on the things you enjoy the most.  Or maybe it is time to consider going back to school for that career you really wanted but for whatever reason you chose a different path (usually parental pressure or something just the income potential was higher).

There is so much stigma with this part of your life.  Mid-life but while it can be very challenging especially if you are dealing with sick or aging parents, layoffs, your own health issues, etc., but it can also be very exciting as you take that second breath and start looking at your new future with the wisdom of many years under your belt.  All that “I wish I had known this in my 20’s” can be applied to your 40’s and 50’s instead.  You can’t go back anyway, only be in today and look toward your future.

So don’t be afraid to recreate yourself, even if it’s just a small part of your life.  You don’t have to go hog wild crazy and disrupt everything and everyone around you like the stereotype of “mid-life crisis” demands.  Sure, there are people who do that.  Leave their long time spouse for someone younger than their kids, buy a wildly expensive sports car and start dressing ridiculous.  That is the extreme case.  I was thinking more along the lines as starting that small business on the side you always wanted, crafting jewelry or painting, traveling to those places you dreamt about, volunteering for a cause close to your heart or changing careers.

The bottom line is, life is short and you should take the time to really search your heart and follow your dreams you may have missed.  It’s never to late to recreate (okay, I have no aspirations to be a poet, you can breathe easy!).

The Art of Writing

Yesterday as I was walking around a large arts festival between downpours, I saw all sorts of amazing creations.  I’m a bit jaded as my daughters are hugely artistic.  I do photography, though not seriously, mostly for my own enjoyment.  I sketch a bit but a sixth grader can overshadow my work pretty easily.  There were artists from all over the country there with all sorts of media from paint, to wood, to metal, to fabric, to jewelry and mixed media.  Anything you could think of was housed in those white tents lining the streets and bridges.  Of course everything I liked was priced out of what I would be willing to pay for it but I am cheap.  And we have been trying to downsize our possessions, not add to them.  So it would have to be a work of art that would absolutely move me for me to even purchase it.

There was so much talent residing in that one area, it started me thinking.  My one real art that I am passionate about is writing.  No, I don’t pen fabulously crafted sentences with prose that other authors would envy.  My writing is pretty straight forward, like my personality.  My strength seems to be empathy not creativity so much.  I write in a voice that others hear in their own heads and hearts.  I can paint a picture with words but it won’t be flowery and chock full of adjectives describing the scene to the minute degree.  I like to keep it moving.  When I read and start getting mired in overly descriptive paragraphs about nothing, my natural tendency toward efficiency will have me skimming the lines until I find some real action again.   Some readers love an author who will wax poetic for long stints.  Me, I think, what’s next?  What happens next?

Driving home alone after being rained out of the festival, I opened the sunroof of my truck, letting the warm, humid air blow through the cab.  If I can help it, every vehicle I own from now on will have a sunroof.  Even if it’s a junker.  I love the sky above me and the air blowing through the roof.  I turned up my music and enjoyed watching the dance of the fading sun and storm clouds in the horizon knowing soon, I’d have to shut the sunroof when the next round of rain came upon me.  This is summer at it’s best for me.  Just being able to open the windows and not freeze.  Moments like these make me feel inspired.

I have been thinking about reinvention and second acts that are popular with my age group (middle aged).  People ruse being middle aged as the approach to the end.  As if “middle aged” is a bad word or words.  What people don’t realize is that while yes, you are past that ‘young’ era but that isn’t necessarily a negative thing.  I sat in a bar/restaurant yesterday that caters to the younger, hipster crowd noting that I was one of the oldest people in there.  My daughter and her boyfriend love this place and it does have fabulous food and atmosphere.  I’m overhearing conversations, watching the interactions of these 20-somethings, maybe 30-somethings and thinking I am so glad I am 45.  There is a wisdom and freedom with this age and older.  You have passed a lot of the frivolous drama, marriage and raising kids or at the later part of raising kids.

I also realized that I have much in common with what was either in college or just out of college kids.  I have my whole life ahead of me albeit about 20 so more years into the process.  But I have this advantage over them.  Many of them will be getting married and having children (or adopting etc for same sex couples).  I’ve already experienced this part of my life.  I am financially stable and less encumbered.  I’ve learned many lessons in life already (and will continue to learn) that I can use to my advantage.  I’m not too old for most things.  If an 80 year old woman can become a DJ in night clubs, imagine what I can do?  I may not be joining the military or doing Ironman competitions because of my knee problems but I still have the chance to become a best-selling writer if I’d ever publish something.

I saw all those artists today who have put their work out there for the world, that are pursuing their goals and I realized I can write all I want but until I start actually finishing something I can submit, my work is going to go unnoticed outside of this blog.   As far as the reinvention which is really not that, but more about experiencing life and not limiting myself to what I am today, it’s about stepping out of my comfort zone.  Exploring things as I would have when I was younger.  Actually, it’s not reinventing anything, it’s simply living my life to the fullest.  Taking some chances, stop being so safe all the time.  Trying on different hats.  Stretching the imagination.

Middle aged isn’t a death sentence as everyone wants you to believe.  It’s a new beginning.

Less Thinking – More Living

I have to admit it, my mind is continually whirling. Like a hamster hopped up on crack who can’t get off the wheel, my mind spins fever pitch most of the time. Overthinking is a hobby of mine. No, make that a passion. Think, think and then rethink what I just thought and then self-analyze it to death, beat it with a stick, then re-analyze it and then further beat it (or tenderize it as I lovingly refer to my beating a dead horse tendencies) until I can not get one more thing out of the carcass of that thought.

To say I am self-aware is probably an understatement. I have a high emotional IQ or EQ as they refer to it, I think (no pun intended). Which is a good thing until it paralyzes me from living my life. Oh, I love to sit around and think about things, ride my bike and think about things and hike and think about things. Why was I in a bad mood earlier? My friend was a little short with me today- did they have a bad day or did I do something? The dog is looking at me cross-eyed – did I feed him or is he having a bad day or did I do something?

Before I know it, the day is over, it’s time to go to bed as the hamster just keeps running madly until I finally drop off to sleep. Squeak, squeak, squeak -silence. Though I don’t think my mind ever shuts off, it just quiets down and lets me get some rest. And never a deep sleep type of rest – it’s the kind that wakes me up several times of night, it looks at the clock, sighs mightily because there are four more hours until the conscious thoughts can punch the clock and allow the subconscious to rest.

I believe I’m at a point where I need to quit thinking so much and start doing something. For over two years, I have had an idea for a small business on the side in which I design and create functional art in the form of furniture I either upcycle from old things or design and build myself (my woodworking skills are beginner so this would start small) and using my photography to create unique nature-themed and affordable landscape/architectural themed photographs which I mat and/or frame for sale as well as designing and creating hardscape items such as garden arbors, benches, etc. for the yard. For my Entrepreneurship class, I even wrote the business plan for this idea and got a 100% and a note from my instructor that it was a great idea, I should implement it.

So yesterday, our Ohio weather had us sequestered in the house again and I was growing restless. Then I remembered my business idea so but last night, I grabbed one of my many notebooks and started making lists of things I need to do (1. Find where I saved the business plan. 2. Learn more about woodworking 3. Start scouring junk stores for cheap but usable pieces as well as old picture frames, etc.). I can think about starting my own business again or I can actually start taking steps toward creating the business. Just thinking about it, nothing is going to happen and one day I will wake up and think, damn, why didn’t I do that? I had great ideas? Hence, another regret. A little bit like writing, if I don’t actually sit down and work on my novel, it will never get finished much less the daunting prospect of finding a publisher. Baby steps are better than no steps.

So, in saying all that, I decided also I want to focus on more fun – again this focuses on my business idea which uses my love of art, furniture, building things, photography and tapping into my eccentric tastes along with my desire to not be tied down to a storefront. At least a physical one. The marketing possibilities are endless and since this is a side business, I don’t have to worry about replacing my income. Though if I did, that would be a fabulous benefit; however, it is a labor of love and not just focused on the financial outcomes. All my life, I’ve focused on the money, how much money I could make if I did this or worked here or started that business. This time, I’m doing it for love of creating and to have fun and meet new people.

Well, I’ve spent enough time today talking about all of this so now I’m going to go out and start scouring some shops as well as hitting the home improvement stores. I can think while I’m driving but it’s time for action.

Oooh this is exciting!

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