Last week my midlife crisis ended. Just like that, from one day to the next. It was ushered out with great fanfare while I was surrounded by friends and family at a Mexican restaurant in New York City. Everyone toasted to my health, we drank margaritas, ate delicious burritos and fajitas and took lots of photos. I particularly like the one of me in an enormous black and gold sombrero blowing out the single candle stuck into a small lump of flan. People came out of nowhere and started singing and clapping. The next morning I woke up and my midlife crisis was gone.
You may have figured out that it was my birthday. And the reason my midlife crisis is gone is that I am no longer middle aged. Last week I celebrated my 60th birthday and (to misappropriate Sartre) I have entered the infancy of old age. I’m trying to digest the fact that I am now old. I continue to fret about health issues, my career, my marriage & family, and the long bucket list of things to do while I still can. But it’s different now. I feel like a huge burden has been lifted. Being 60 makes me feel free to do what I want without apologizing. Skip dinner to keep working on my memoir? Sure. Head off to the beach for the weekend with a good friend from college? Why not? Buy a $200 pair of shoes? I’ve worked hard for my money, and I can finally spend it on a luxury item. I’m fortunate that my husband is supportive of my pursuits. We’ve weathered the middle-aged storm together and, like victims of a flood or fire, we’re looking around for the best of what we had together to take into the future. Most of what we had is good, and now we can leave behind what wasn’t.
After a lifetime spent fulfilling other people’s expectations, my time has finally arrived. I no longer feel guilty about going in my own direction, sometimes alone, sometimes with others. I no longer have patience for people and situations that drain my energy and make me doubt myself. I am grateful to be surrounded by good colleagues, caring neighbors, and friends and family to help me take the baby steps into old age. Just as new parents coo and clap when their baby learns a new skill, my social network is cheering me on, sometimes literally – as they did at the Mexican restaurant. I know it’s a cliché but “we’re not getting older, we’re getting better” is really true.
My advice on how to end your midlife crisis is this: find people who support your crazy ideas and reach out to them as often as possible. Stop focusing on your imperfections and start taking steps toward one goal on your bucket list. For me, my goal was finishing my memoir and taking it to New York to try to find a literary agent. I pitched it to eight agents at a conference, and all of them would like to see my manuscript. I think good things come to those who are plodders. I’ve worked on this book for nearly five years while teaching full time, coaching a rowing team and raising two children. Writing was always a secret passion of mine, and now I’ve got a finished book and a blog where I can write whatever I want. Maybe somebody will read it and be inspired.
Just as an infant takes baby steps before learning to walk, I am taking baby steps into publishing. I’ve kept a diary or journal all my life. It’s a new experience to share my thoughts and opinions with others. I am thrilled to realize the power of my words. I’ve had a lifetime of hiding my truth because I didn’t think anybody would be interested. What turning 60 has taught me is not to be afraid of being judged by others. I have something to say and I’m putting it out there. I don’t expect singing and clapping, but I’m kind of enjoying this second childhood.
“I wrote in order to write. I don’t regret it; had I been read, I would have tried to please. I would have become a wonder again. Being clandestine I was true.”
– Jean Paul Sartre