Have you ever googled mid life? In search of an image to match this post, I googled the simple words ‘mid life’. Nothing positive popped up. Instead, 1000 images referring to a mid life crisis filled my screen. But here’s the thing – I’m not having a crisis. At least not today and hopefully not anytime soon. I am simply acknowledging that I am half way.
Today is my birthday. I’m 43. Not a notable number like 40 or 50, but significant in that this means I am statistically mid life. According to the freely accessible life expectancy calculator found on Google, I am destined to live approximately 86 years. This means that today is roughly my half way point. Similarly, I began teaching in 1999 – 18 years ago. According to my pension statement, a good time to retire with an unreduced pension would be 18 years from now in 2035. This means that I am very likely half way through my career as well.
Before you think I am showing all signs of a crisis, I’ll let you know why this is on my mind. A few days ago, a friend posted on Facebook and asked “What advice would you give your younger self?”. While pondering the thought I walked through Chapters and this book jumped out at me:
Similar to the Facbook post, this book asks notable women to reflect on their lives and give feedback to their younger self. To wrap your head around this activity, you must first accept that you are no longer considered young. This is a bit strange as I don’t feel old at all. Although I didn’t post an answer on Facebook, the question has been running through my mind. First, I’m making a cognitive shift from ‘young’ to ‘mid-life’, and second, I’m reflecting on what I would tell my younger self.
Do I feel any older? My first answer is an emphatic NO! (But then again, don’t ask me to do something on a Friday night between Sept and June – Friday night now feels like recovery from the week while Saturday still has potential.) My biggest realization is that mid-life feels nothing like I would have predicted. Back in my 20’s I viewed age 40 as a static marker meaning your life was set, fixed, and likely predictable like Groundhog Day from that point forward until retirement. I imagined mid life as stable in career, family, relationships, health and finances. I imagined life as rather flat but predictable. I assumed my job at 40 would be the same as my job at 60. I had no idea that my 40’s would feel rather similar to my 20’s and 30’s. I still cry at sad movies (ok Disney movies too), still have to ask what shoes look better, and still need my girlfriends. Like my mother, I still believe saving means finding a great sale and like most women on the planet, I still can’t decide what i want more: to be thin or to eat the cheesecake.
This June, I offered a teaching job to a young enthusiastic teacher. She eagerly accepted the contract and paid me a compliment: She told me she loved working with me so she could learn from the generation before her. Ugh. Am I the older generation? When did that happen? Although I have a rich rewarding career I don’t feel any further ahead than my 20’s in answering the question: So, What do you want to do with your life? In fact, the best answer I can give is that I want to continue to grow. In the first 18 years of my career I have worked as an HR manager, as a teacher, a counsellor, a secondary VP and as an elementary principal. My biggest hope is that the next 18 years offer as many diverse options. I like new challenges, love learning and feel that youthfulness and change go hand in hand. I am not ready to experience Groundhog Day anytime soon.
So – What Advice Do I Have To My Younger Self?
Have Faith in People. Marriage, careers, friendships and all relationships are fluid. They go up and down with highs and lows. The richness comes from the commitment to learn and grow together.
Get to Know Yourself. The older I get, the more I realize that the best way to take care of myself is to make time for myself. For me, I LOVE being around people and I’m easily mistaken for an extrovert. (I swear I’m not one but the world disagrees). To re-energize I need to walk, run, read, write or reflect. Silence is how I recharge. The answers we are looking for are often within.
Take the Chance. In my 20’s I turned down a dream job because it was temporary and I accepted a less fulfilling job because it was continuing. It is one of my few regrets. Why on earth I thought I needed the stable job long before I had kids or a mortgage escapes me. However, I do believe life always makes sense in reverse, and where I am today is likely a result of the choices earlier – and so I am happy with the choices I made.
Eat the Cake. Or cheesecake or Nanaimo bars. (I hate cake… in fact I wish the world adapted and had birthday pie – but that’s another blog). Desserts are more than sugary treats – they are the reward after a long day, the recognition of another year, a symbol of celebration or a way to relax, unwind and savour moments. I don’t think anyone looked back on life wishing they had enjoyed more carrots.
Be Active. In my 20’s I could live on McChickens, diet for an hour and lose five pounds. I wanted to look fit but didn’t care that much about actually being fit. Now I could diet for a week, eat one McChicken and gain five pounds. Regardless, being active has become more about how I feel on the inside. Activity is directly linked to positive thinking about self and others.
Keep Learning. My 20 something view on adulthood predicted university followed by a consistent career. I didn’t realize at 43 I’d have just as many questions – or perhaps more. Maybe it’s a confidence that comes mid age where it’s ok to say we don’t have the answers and that life is really about questions. I can’t imagine getting to an age where I am not curious. I love learning from the wisdom of elders and the current trends of youth.
Love Matters Most. I have no idea why I expected adult world to be less emotional than my younger years. I am still the same person and relationships will always come first for me. I lead with my heart first and head second. It’s just who I am. In fact, I truly believe that love is essential for learning – and probably for living. Connections with friends and family are just as important now as they were when I was young. And half way through life, I am just as likely to shed a tear at commercials, sad movies or watching strangers arrive at the airport. When we are emotionally invested, we lean in, we listen and we learn.
Say Yes to Yourself. Sometimes saying no takes courage, but there comes a point when you realize that time sucking activities are merely that when they don’t nourish your soul. When you say no to something you don’t want to do, you say yes to yourself. Aligning your actions with your inner voice brings much more joy than ignoring your inner voice to please others.
So Now What?
Here I am at the mid point – half way through this amazing journey called life.
As I move into the second half, I can only hope my life continues to be amazing. My list of advice remains exactly the same with two little add ons:
- Enjoy Kids. As my kids get older, i realize that their happiness is my happiness and watching them succeed is just as rewarding as my own feelings of success – and watching them fall is actually harder than falling myself.
- Wear Hats. I love seeing older people with great hats. In fact, I used to dream of owning my own hat store. Despite my love of hats, I rarely buy them or wear them. As I embark on the 2nd half of life, friends and family be warned – this may be my crisis – the hunt for great hats has begun.
Now if only I could find this on eBay…