Mid-life crisis, distilled

I recently wrote a series of posts on having a mid-life crisis but tl:dr so I’ve distilled them into one.

It started with a job application. My children are growing and, like many mums with careers on semi-hold for years (hi!), I need (want) to reignite my career. I want to belong somewhere and feel useful (and afford college, and eat actual food in my old age).

I found a steady, sensible job that would pay the bills and slot into school hours, updated my CV, wrote the letter, scrunched it up, threw it on the fire, had all my hair cut off, got a tattoo, browsed clothes that would make an accountant cry, worked out till I faceplanted, drank a bottle of volcanic wine (bottoms up, Vesuvius), and binge-watched Fleabag til 4am — at which point I had to wonder,

is this the beginning of a mid-life crisis?


And part of me thought, “why not?”

I’ve been Mrs Sensible for fifteen years and I’ve loved being with my children (plus I love a clean house and healthy meals), but I’ve had seven operations in three years, and a recent cancer test (it wasn’t cancer) made me think.

‘Keep an eye on the lump,’ they said.

I pictured myself sitting at a desk, proofreading someone else’s work, with occasional breaks to stare at an arm lump.  You can do that kind of thing for twenty years: people do.

I know people my age who are already limbering up for retirement, hoping for “a life of leisure”. To me, that sounds like a long, slow slide towards death.

I tried to work out what (aside from looking after my family) I actually want. Turns out some of it’s trivial (but I still want it), and some of it’s not:

  1. Super-short hair and a black biker jacket. I had both until I morphed into a middle-aged bob with a brown, corduroy coat that makes me look like a human sausage roll.
  2. The sweating, stricken, might even say panicked look here is after just SEVEN miles. Some of my friends can run SIXTY miles… It gets easier, right? (It doesn’t, does it?)

    To be fit. I grew up in an era when older women advised girls, “Don’t become too muscular, because men don’t like it”. In response, I’ve decided to run a half-marathon (13.1mi), a marathon (26.2mi), and an ultra. This will take two years — I can currently run 10 miles with the wind behind me — and I might die because ow. (Please don’t let me die.) Coaches tell me, “90% of running is in your head”, so I just need to stay positive. It’ll be fine. Fun, in fact. I’ll probably enjoy every single minute and look mighty sexy especially on the hills.

  3. A serious writing career and to become a timeless literary legend. (Dream includes riches.) I reckon this one should be fairly easy — I mean, other people manage it. Or doable, at least. It’ll be fine.
  4. To work with children. This has been out of reach for a long time (family health, timing…) but my children are growing and this option’s back on the table. Children are amazing; I love them – by which I mean, I love them all, I think they’re absolutely incredible, and fascinating, and our entire future, and being with them makes my heart happy. If I could do one thing to give children opportunities, my work will have been worthwhile. I need to find someone to help me do this – options are open.

And the rest is friends and family. Global love and happy things.

Three things struck me about the list: (1) some of it’s easy, (2) all of it’s possible, and (3) however “sensible” the boring job may have at first appeared,

there is nothing sensible about wasting time.

Therefore I’m not going to dismiss last week’s momentary mid-life crisis; I’m going to embrace it, because having a “mid-life crisis” might be a very sensible, strategic, and exciting thing to do.

Everyone is welcome to join in.

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