On square root day (3/3/09), I advanced another year and am solidly, undeniably middle aged. I am not new to my census age group; no, this cohort has been my home for more than a decade. Although the number is shocking, I am not bothered by birthdays because, let's face it, the alternative is far less appealing. Still, middle age has made me take note that "some day" is today and time is a-wastin'. This has been less a crisis than a kick in the keister. As silly as it sounds, middle age's arrival came as a surprise; it's as if I went to bed one night as a young, hip person, and then woke up the next morning with crow's feet and an AARP card. When did my children get to be the same age as me? When did I catch up to my mother? Then there is the G word (gravity).
Middle age is when we're old enough to take stock of our lives but young enough to make mid-course adjustments. The most important question to ask oneself in midlife is "what have I always wanted but have not yet obtained?" For some people, that is a little red sports car. Others take a special trip. A few men trade in their wives for younger, perkier versions.
A coaching exercise that is useful for people of any age is what I call the "95th Birthday Party." Imagine you are attending your own 95th birthday party and people are taking turns toasting you. What do you want to hear? What accomplishments do you want highlighted? Career? Family? Hobbies? Your answers to these questions reveal what you need to do now. If it's important that your children toast how they they could always count on you, then rework your priorities to be home more. If you want tennis buddies reminiscing about how much they enjoyed playing with you, then find a way to work a weekly game into your schedule. If you want younger people sharing how much they learned from you, then consider becoming a teacher. You get the idea.
Regret is among the worst feelings because there is no way to change the past. Middle age is our wake up call to reconsider choices we made that are no longer working well for us, or to make new choices because our values have shifted. I've anticipated my 95th birthday party and have come up with my own list of middle age modifications. Writing was always one of my "some day" activities that I have now undertaken. Hence, this blog.
Hopefully, I will have plenty of years to implement all my changes, as well as changes I have yet to identify. This is hardly a crisis. It is, however, a welcome kick in the keister.