Fribble Mid-Life: Crisis or Opportunity?

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By George Runkle (TMF Runkle)
November 30, 2000

"Life is what happens while we're making other plans" - John Lennon

As I'm approaching 45, I find myself thinking a lot about a mid-life crisis. See, I'm a bit more than halfway through my time here, and as fast as the first 45 years went, the next 35 to 40 years will be even faster. What's going to happen then?

This is the type of thinking that brings on a mid-life crisis, which I don't think is all bad. Oh, yeah, I know when we all think of mid-life crisis we think of a middle-aged man ditching his wife, buying a red sports car, and getting a 19-year-old girlfriend. However, that's not really a mid-life crisis. That's an idiot trying to live out adolescent fantasies that he couldn't afford while he was young.

No, I think a mid-life crisis is totally different, is good, and should be embraced. In fact, the earlier it happens the better. Why? Well, a mid-life crisis is when you finally ask yourself three questions:

  • Why am I living my life in this manner?
  • Am I happy living like this?
  • Am I happy with the direction my life is taking me?
These are three hard questions, and often we don't get the chance to ask them early on. Events just sort of overtake us. We don't have much choice about where we go to school in many cases, and things that have little to do with our own choices often determine our careers. For example, it's often the job that is available based on the education you were able to get. The education you get may be based on the schools where you live, the amount of money your family has, or the scholarships available, or the intelligence you were born with. So, for many of us, it's life that determines where we go, not us.

As we go along, we have three choices: we can either accept where we are and be miserable, decide that where we are is just fine, or work to go somewhere else in life. We all know people who are completely miserable with their lives -- they complain endlessly about their rotten jobs, where they live, and what they do every day. Yet, they never take any action to fix it. They just have excuses for their misery. The other types are people like my father -- life dished out a certain course, but that was just fine. Dad was quite happy with how his life turned out and saw no need to change anything.

The final group is composed of those of us that really want to change direction in our lives. For me, this happened early on -- I desperately fought the way my life was unfolding from age 11 or so. Often the events that occur have more power than you do, and things don't turn out the way you would have liked. The important element here is to try. It is possible to change things in your life, but it takes persistence. I have to say that at this point in my life, I'm quite happy about where I am. It only took 40 some years, but it was worth the effort.

So, in the end, mid-life crises aren't bad. Maybe you'll find that you didn't want to go where life took you, but the direction it took you was where you needed to go anyway. Maybe you'll find you need to change, try to travel down a different road. Even though life is pretty short when you think about it, the allotted period of time is too long to go through it in misery. Embrace that mid-life crisis, and if you have to, go ahead and make the change. It's a very Foolish thing to do.