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How to Define a Midlife Crisis

It’s unlikely that I’ll live to the age of 98; at least from a statistical standpoint. Provided I don’t get hit by a bus next week, have a major blockage in one of the arteries leading to my heart, or a silent, merciless tumor growing within the depths of my body as I write this, I can speculate that at 49, the halfway mark of my time in this existence probably occurred ten years ago. A midlife crisis is a culmination of multiple factors. While this phenomenon is usually associated with the male gender, I believe those of the fairer sex are just as susceptible.

We see younger people in their teens or twenties laughing, having a good time; embraced in the fervor and passion of romance in its very infancy. Moreover, they still have around 60 years; if not a bit more, to look forward to. As we get older, the passage of time itself seems to accelerate. We are envious and find it unsettling to realize that we have lived for twice as long. We ask ourselves, “Where did the time go?”

It seems like yesterday when we were caught up in the throes of youth and the enjoyment that complemented those years. Thoughts of growing old rarely crossed our minds, but in fact we did get older. The lines in our faces, the creases in our foreheads, the loss of melanin in our follicles that turn our hair gray, are all inevitable.

In addition to our longing for days that have passed, we begin to assess what we have done with our lives. At the high school reunion, are we comfortable with the fact that the nerdy-looking kid with horn-rimmed glasses that wore pocket protectors is now a well-known professor of physics at a prestigious university? Do you struggle to support your family on a combined income with your spouse of $40,000 a year while that other kid who snapped wet towels at your backside in the P.E. locker room is now a CEO commanding seven figures and arrived in his own private jet? Has that that once-homely wallflower who struggled to put a complete sentence together transformed herself into a gorgeous woman that would put most supermodels to shame while your figure has taken a turn for the worse?

Now that we are on the north side of 40, have we confidently reached our lifetime goals? Have we sufficiently followed our hopes and dreams, or have we instead fallen pathetically short? Most importantly, are we happy, or are we trapped within the confines of a virtual prison from which there is no apparent escape; a cage without walls but rather a contiguous collection of bad decisions?

These are but a few of the questions that are indicative of one reaching his or her midlife crisis. When you arrive, you’ll know it. In some fashion or another, you will try to recapture your youth. Marital status becomes irrelevant, for you will still make an attempt to seek approval and/or admiration from whichever gender sexually attracts you. Put simply, you will go all out to seek reassurance that you still “have it,” whether you ever really did in the first place or not. Even in the case of common peers, an unspoken desire to instill envy; jealousy, is realized. Rather than realistically accepting your current situation with an “it is what it is” outlook, your wish is to fulfill a fantasy. Judgment becomes clouded.

To illustrate, let’s suppose that a 40 or 50-some-odd-year-old male enters a strip club and a female dancer half his age approaches him, sits at his table, and proceeds to flirt with him. The individual experiencing a mid-life crisis will likely take pleasure in the form of a major ego boost. Conversely, the person who is not going through this stage of life will recognize that this is what these young ladies are paid to do. Like an overly personable, friendly server in a restaurant, the stripper is well-trained in the art of public relations, and therefore hopeful she will receive a generous tip.

I have gone through a mid-life crisis myself. It lasted about 2 years; from age 35 until around 37. My occupation as an optician had many females in the field, and they were quite attractive. I was well-liked and made them laugh often. They more or less looked at me as a sort of big brother, but it nevertheless gave me a much-needed shot in the arm in the self-esteem department. I had been married for a few years, but these women made me wonder where they all were when I was single. Well, they would have been toddlers or small children. I was 10-15 years older than most of them!

When I was 36, my wife became pregnant with our only child. We hadn’t planned on having children, but it happened; anyway. I was scared at the prospect of fatherhood, so I thought I’d try to turn back the clock. I began hanging out with people much younger. Some weren’t even 21 yet. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I no longer had anything in common with this generation, and worst of all; I was making a fool of myself. My daughter was born just 4 days after my 37th birthday, and I cannot imagine life without her.

For the majority of us, this rite of passage into the remainder of our lives known as the mid-life crisis will pass. When we are held within its figurative stranglehold; however temporary it may be, it’s surprising how ridiculous we can make ourselves appear to those around us.