* This person interviewed here is not a client, but in order to protect their privacy, all identifying information will be kept confidential. They have read the entirety of this article and consent to its publication.
How do you identify yourself?
Female, mid 40’s, straight, Christian, employed full-time and also a doctoral student.
You recently mentioned that you believe you have experienced a midlife crisis. Tell me about that time of your life.I had been living in the same place for many years that was not very politically or socially diverse. A large population with children. I do not have children. Children are something that I have thought about but not something I felt like I really need to be a Mom.
There came to be a time that I was living there after 17 years that I thought “there has got to be so much more to life than this so what am I doing, what is out there, what could more look like?” I think it would have been similar if I had been a parent. I would say in my very early 40’s I started thinking that life had to look different than this and that I did not want to be stuck here forever.
When we are feeling “stuck” we often search for a way to “fix it”, ideally as easily and as quickly as possible. Can you tell me more about why you did not just look for a way to “fix it”?
I think I tried to play that card for a while – that “if only I do this or this” then it will be better. I realized how out of control that thinking and behavior was. And that did not feel like God wanted that for me during that time. Somewhere along the way, I learned that the comparison game is not helpful. I am so grateful that I was able to learn that.
So, now I tend not to compare myself to other people.
Is that a personality thing or is this a learned thing for you?
I think it is an unlearned thing.I grew up in a family that compared. I tried to fight against that because I know that there are times in myself and in my spirit that my judgmental self can come out. I think, in some respects, I have been pretty secure with who I am. I do not feel like I have huge deficits in major areas. Even in my teenage years when friends were having a lot of insecurity around comparison, I noticed myself not feeling the same way.
So resisting comparison has been significant for you in many different times of life.
At what moment did you realize that you were in a midlife crisis and needed to make a big change?
It was four summers ago in August when I went up to a camp in Canada that I worked at many years ago. And all the people that I knew from so many years ago were so surprised that I was still in the same place because they knew that I did not like it when I started there.
Seeing them was a good push. I did not like it my first year and even 16 years later I still did not like it. There were pieces that I grew to love but I still did not really feel alive there. So being confronted by people from my past who were shocked that I was still doing the same thing got me thinking a lot about it.
Was that the beginning?
Yes, I would’ve been 42 at the time so it felt truly midlife to me.
The midlife crisis was prompted by a reflection of where you were at and what you were doing that did not feel true to yourself?
Then what happened?
I was working in higher-education and it was a super busy time. When I came back after that trip to Canada into that busy time, I kind of froze. I really couldn’t function. I had to stay in bed. I knew that I was depressed and was anxious about the future. And I was anxious about the cycle of the school year that I was about to enter into again.
There were things that I skipped and stayed home for. I knew I was not in a good place. At that point, I reached out to a friend in California who I had known from previous days and I asked If I could come down to visit.
So you were pretty intentional in reaching out at that time?
Yes, I knew I needed to do something. Going to California was a visit to explore and make a change.
Where did the motivation to make this change come from when you were in the middle of feeling trapped in the cycle?I had been at that low state before and I hate it so much that I thought if there is anything in my power to move myself out of here, I am going to do it. When I went down to California, I did not know what it would mean or what the future would hold, but it is was an actionable step.
Did you notice a shift in yourself when that happened?
Within the next month or so I made the decision to leave and do something different. At that point, change was coming. Even though it was sad and hard it really felt like the right thing to do. Even being able to realize that revitalized me.
What did “right” feel like?
I had energy again and could do some of my normal tasks. I felt excited about life. I felt kind of whole again. And when I actually made the move some of the normal transition things like “I am lonely and sad” were not ever really there. I guess it was there a little bit, but I kept feeling like I was in the right place.
Was there a point that felt like the end of the crisis?In some respects there was. I think getting a new job and starting school again helped me realize that there was a different momentum. Not that I need to have a new thing happening around every corner. It felt like a good direction to be going.
One funny thing is that I did the stereotypical midlife crisis thing: I bought a convertible! And I love it.
How long did the crisis last for you?
Well, it probably began in 2008 but my community was dealing with some major life things so it felt like I needed to stay where I was and support the people I cared about. I was 36 at that time and moved when I was 42 – so about an eight year crisis – right in what feels like the middle of life. I also realized during that time that there was definitely a seasonal affective component to what I was experiencing.
It sounds like there was a lot of self-awareness that came into play here. Can you tell me more about that?
I knew I did not want to be stuck in a hole. I knew I had to do more. Even though there are bonuses and benefits to staying where I was at, my mental health felt more important. With that realization, my mental health became a priority. I went to therapy and was prescribed antidepressants, both of which were helpful.
Tell me more about your experience in therapy.
It was very helpful for me to realize that the answer was in my hands. No one was going to do it for me.
What did you notice about your faith during that time?
As much as I could, I tried to focus on mustard seed sized faith. I also trusted that my path has been laid out before me. Even in life’s more challenging times, I still can hang on to that.
What’s it been like to reflect on this midlife crisis?
It is exciting in some ways to see where I am at but it also makes me sad in other ways. “Dark” is the word I would put to that time. There’s been a lot of change since then.
Any final thoughts about experiencing a midlife crisis?
Well, I think it can definitely happen earlier than we expected it – 30’s or earlier 40’s. Know that it happens and make sure you can recognize it. In some ways, it feels like a “straight out of college I don’t know what I’m doing” thing, except perhaps more disorienting because you are older.
“Parking Lot”, Courtesy of Harutmovsisyan, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Berlin Bridge”, Courtesy of Markusspiske, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Helping Hand”, courtesy of Truthseeker08, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Convertible”, Courtesy of Bernswaelz, Pixabay.com, CC0 License