Looking Over the Edge

Dear Sensible Midwesterner,

How do you go about a “midlife crisis” gracefully?

Sincerely,
Looking Over the Edge

There are all kinds of ways to go through the middle portion of your life, as well as the much later section that we’ve come to call middle-aged. One, of course, is to dig your heels in and deny deny deny. My very dear East Coast friend once bristled at the notion that she and I were middle aged. I could only ask her how long, exactly, she thought she might live. Since the span in which we sit, I informed her, pretty much defined the middle by any measure of current predicted lifespans in the Western world.

To be clear: 30 to 50 is the middle span. Or 30 to 60.

No matter how you slice it, though, even if you’re lucky enough to come from a family in which living to 90 seems like a possible prediction, that breaks down to 0 to 30, 30 to 60, and 60 to 90. Even Steven down the line.

Whenever you’re placing your own definition of “middle aged,” though, a sensible Midwesterner knows that once the word “crisis” has been employed, there is little chance grace will follow.

A less sensible Midwesterner might wonder what the problem with a little graceless crisis is. After all, what purpose do we serve if not to provide our friends and family with something about which to gossip?

If you’re not up for seeing yourself as fodder for others’ amusement, though, it seems that the key to navigating the traditionally vexing time when one’s youth is clearly over but there is still reason to believe that one has many miles to go before one sleeps, is to avoid getting to the crisis point.

Midlife crises that are crises, rather than re-evaluations or adjustments, tend to come from lives that have had big holes or constant dissatisfaction. The middle-aged dude who perhaps got pressured (whether by a specific individual or by social expectations) into a somewhat early marriage, settled into a job for which he cares little, and wakes up one morning to grow a ponytail, buy a bright red convertible, and run off with someone half his age is the classic example of someone who would appear to have been not thrilled with life for quite sometime.

Sensible Midwesterners know to make changes as life and conscience call for along the way. They also know that it’s perfectly normal to have moments when one’s previous choices seem ill-informed or limited. The truly sensible ones remember acutely the circumstances under which such decisions were made and forgive their younger selves, all the better to move forward without crisis.

If you have not paid attention along the way, however, and feel the need to chuck it all and move to the Yukon Territory to open a bed-and-breakfast that offers dog sledding with views of the Northern Lights or live out the rest of your days giving surf lessons on some far-flung island, it would seem to this sensible Midwesterner that doing so gracefully simply involves doing so with conviction, kindness to those affected by your change of heart, and a vibrancy that will inspire the rest of us.

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