The kids would freak

Mid-life crisis, step 2: actually, this could be fun…

For the last fifteen years, I’ve been Mrs Sensible. The one who works at the traditional job, wipes everything, watches the news, and drinks decaff coffee after 6pm.

Then last week I ditched a job application for being too dull, drank wine, got a tattoo, binge-watched Fleabag, daydreamed of luxurious townhouses and conflicted priests, and worked out for two days straight, after which my legs didn’t work very well. All of these things are normal, but not for me. Was this the start of a “mid-life crisis”? If so, it had to be over before it began, because my family needs me to be… sensible.

But heading back to my desk with all other options unexplored left me feeling haunted by an opportunity not taken.

Dare I ask,

What if a mid-life crisis is a sensible pit-stop?

What if “mid-life crises” happen because mid-life’s the perfect time to pull over, top up the oil, tighten some nuts, and check to see if we’re still motoring – or, perhaps more importantly, steering?

What if the (massively sensible) career I’ve established, based largely on decisions made at AGE FIFTEEN (when I selected my A levels), wasn’t meant to be my one-and-only choice? Two decades ago, when I set up a little freelance business, I imagined running it for 20 years and then revisiting my options.

That would be now.

With twenty years’ work experience, and twenty left to enjoy, isn’t it only sensible to recalibrate now?

So where am I?

My work fits around school hours. My hobbies are designed to nurture my children. I eat what’s good for little growing people. My social circle is mainly “mums with kids the same age”. My clothes were on offer in the supermarket because I’m saving for the kids’ college education. There’s a theme here.

I’ve given my children my all, and in return had the BEST times with them – so many conversations, adventures, cuddles and stories. No regrets. But is there any part of me that’s not sensible?

I don’t want Fleabag’s lifestyle but I want her coat, her sister’s house, the guinea pig, and the conflicted priest, and as I thought about them, I started to understand why people go off the rails in middle-age: it’s delicious to think about yourself after years of not.

I made a list of trivial treats that I’d like. It surprised me:

  1. A black biker jacket. I used to have an edgy, black jacket; now I have a furry, brown, corduroy thing that makes me look like a human sausage roll.  
  2. Super-short hair. I wish I could carry off a buzz cut or pixie, but I have a lumpy nose. Still, I want it.
  3. To be lighter, faster, and stronger: less squidgy pug, more hardcore dalmation. I want to enjoy long runs, even if they take time.
  4. An incredible writing career (not-a-hobby) and to become a timeless literary legend. (Dream includes riches.)
  5. To work with children. This has been out of reach for a long time; thanks to family health, my geographical scope was painfully limited, and the one place I would’ve wanted to work didn’t want me – but I’ve had encouragement elsewhere, and my children are growing and my range widening, so this option’s back on the table.

Two things struck me about the list: (1) only half of it’s trivial, and (2) it feels indescribably luxurious to think of myself.

I’m not going to dismiss last week’s momentary blip. I’m going to embrace it.

Having a “mid-life crisis” might be a very sensible, strategic thing to do.

This could be a chance for all my previous selves — adolescent in a biker jacket, career woman in a suit, and mother in hiking gear — to amalgamate and decide where to go next. This woman, in 2019, might make decisions that look very different from, and far more relevant than, those made by a fifteen-year-old girl in 1986. In this sense, having a “mid-life crisis” might be a sensible, strategic thing to do.

First I need to know where I want to end up.

I could dream of being on a stage, accepting a fiction award, dressed in a very fine jacket with a breeze ruffling my… almost bald scalp(?), while in the audience, my children and a conflicted priest clutching a guinea pig clap wildly. I could lead children on adventures, perhaps up mountains made of either granite or books, or both?

As dreams go, this might need some fine tuning, but it feels like it has an integrity and it’s far too much fun to let go.

Mid-life crisis: for at least another week, or perhaps the rest of my life, I’m all yours.

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