Columnist: Head off that midlife crisis before you buy that flashy buggy

Thursday , April 20, 2017 - 5:00 AM2 comments

By MEG SANDERS, Standard-Examiner columnist

In contrast to modern times, a midlife crisis hit men and women of the 1800s when they were about 17. Men went out, bought a flashy new buggy with red velvet seats and grew inappropriate facial hair. Women showed off their ankles, found themselves a nice cowboy, and neglected supper, all to make their husbands jealous.

Not too long ago, while doing laundry, I found a black lace slip.

At the time, I thought it was some kind of negligee, one that certainly wasn’t mine. Many a wife would immediately think “affair”; I just thought maybe my spouse was wearing women’s clothes, a symptom of his midlife identity loss. I didn’t say anything about it, just folded it and placed it on the dryer.

Maybe my guy was looking to get out of a rut. I decided to keep a close eye on my underwear drawer. A week later, my mother asked, “Did you get that black slip I brought over from Grandma’s?” Seems I’ll have to think a different direction on my husband’s crisis. I expect it to appear any day, since people in their 30s seem to be losing their bearings.

This made-up crisis is a bit more toned down than those I see in my fellow 30-somethings. Nowadays, it seems this identity crisis hits pre-midlife. At least that’s what I figure, as I see friends, acquaintances and folks from high school making drastic changes in their lives.

My nightly guilty pleasure of flipping through mugshots proves to be a who’s who of high school reunions. Each of these people seems to be looking to cope with getting a bit older each year. Disappointingly, it seems my generation ignored the “Just Say No” motto.

A major issue for my age group is mental health. It’s during this time in our lives, much as in our teenage years, when hormones either kick in or kick off. A person who once functioned as-is may now need to hold a perception check to see whether mind and bod are up to the task of 40 more years. So many are too scared to do this reflection, leading to a deeper hole of crisis. Risky behavior once seen as cute, daring and the epitome of youth now looks sad, dangerous and repellent.

For myself, I realized I’ve done the same thing for 10 years. Predominantly a stay-at-home mom, with a bit of freelance work here and there, I recognized this ride is almost over. My children are almost all in school, I’m nearly at my wit’s end, and I pretty much hate the career I chose for myself 10 years ago. It’s time to make a change, take a leap and be brave. Easier written than done. I have no idea what to do.

Those in their 30s are looking for guidance, but who is there to ask for guidance? Now hitting those middle digits, the pressure is on because we can no longer say “I’m only 20-something years old, I don’t have to know.”

Now we have to have a general idea, primarily to set ourselves up for the future. I thought college was the big decision. No, it’s finding out what I want to do for the next decades to build for retirement. I feel so old writing that sentence.

Clearly, life is just one big transition into the next transition — a true test of how one handles change. As the cliché says, it’s the one constant in life.

For those facing the rut of their 30s, maybe their 40s, it’s not worth throwing your family away. It’s not worth throwing finances into ruin, and it’s not worth it to have your face on the mugshot page.

Rut, crisis, lost identity, minutia — whatever you want to call it, don’t let it define your 30s, and then the rest of your life.

If, like me, you’re looking for direction, for answers, don’t go buy a flashy new buggy, grow inappropriate facial hair, get a new cowboy boyfriend, or wear women’s clothes (unless, it really does make you happy).

Instead, talk to someone, face your fears and check your mental health. I do believe it’s all downhill after 40.

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