Lately, I find myself questioning a lot of my past decisions and asking whether I am on the right bus on this journey call Life, or not?
I am a man in my early forties, married to a wonderful woman and father to a beautiful 3 year old baby boy. I love my family dearly!
I’m also obsessively in love with martial arts and had been consistently training in various styles for the last 30 years or so. However, since being injured during training in 2017, my health and fitness has taken a bit of a knock and that obsession has died down slightly. In fact, my injury left me physically incapacitated for almost 4 months that resulted in even more harmful mental and emotional damage such as apathy, anger, resentment and fear of being injured again. Furthermore, it put a huge strain on my family as I was not able to assist with even basic household chores.
Now that I have recovered, I am questioning how do I go about getting back into a shape other than round? Do I continue training in the martial arts that I love so much? And if so, how can I do it with the same vigour and dedication, minus the fear?
I am questioning my roles as a bread-winner in my household.
In my professional career, I had spent 14 years in the corporate world before leaving it to venture out on my own. For the past 4 years, I have been calling myself an entrepreneur. In reality though, that just means I’m broke most of the time! As part of my venture, I had partnered up with a group of like-minded people in Cape Town. It was, for a while, an enriching and rewarding symbiotic relationship. However, I feel that my vocation is now being drawn in a different direction.
I feel a strong pull towards entertaining, educating and empowering people on something more than what I am currently doing (namely, personal safety and self-defence). In the past, I had studied acupuncture, kinesiology and energy healing modalities to perhaps fulfil a subconscious desire to heal people. Perhaps I should be taking my roles as the sensei (or teacher) in my local Kendo club more seriously. I could offer more private lessons in martial arts & self-defence. Strangely enough, I have been getting more enquiries for private lessons and even requests to do formal mentorship for some students.
I am questioning what brings me joy and happiness in my life.
Firstly, I want to get more creative. I’ve contemplated taking up guitar or piano lessons again (as a reference point, I started learning to play the piano in high school, but dropped it soon after as it was interfering with my academic studies). I’ve even thought about tapping into my artistic side like getting into the film and acting industry, or being a singer in boy-band, or joining a Toastmasters club to gain the skill of a professional speaker! As a side note, I had woken up twice this week at 3am to write this speech, with an inkling of an idea that I could one day “morph my speech into a book“[i]!
Furthermore, I want to reduce the clutter in my life such as getting rid of the energy-draining, negative people in my life, and cutting out the frustrating and unappreciated work that I do for the various organizations I am involved with.
I kept asking all these questions until eventually friend asked me the one day, “Are you having a midlife crisis?”
“OMG!”,I thought! Am I not too young to have a mid-life crisis? And if I am, just how young is my clichéd blonde, blue-eyed and busty mistress supposed to be?”
So I did some investigation about this “midlife crisis” thing.
Dr Google’s quick search came up with the following definition: “The male midlife crisis is often made fun of, but for many men it is a distressing experience. A midlife crisis can happen when men think they have reached life's halfway stage and feel time is running out. It's not a medical condition but people going through a midlife crisis can experience anxiety and depression.”
According to another article, this is “a normal period during the lifespan, when we (both men and women) transition from young people to older adults. During this time, adults evaluate their achievements, goals, and dreams against what they had wished for in the past, and what stage they are facing in life.”[ii]
As mentioned, both men and women can experience a midlife crisis, but they experience this crisis in different ways - Men apparently focus on their achievements and their desire to prove their success to others. Women, on the other hand, tend to fixate on their physical appearance, sexual attraction, and what they can do once their parenting duties have ended. However, I’ve met some middle-aged women that are obsessively focused on the careers, while their male counterparts are all about conquering their next 20-something year old secretary.
This got me curious, what exactly are the signs of a midlife crisis and am I really going through one?
Here are 10 signs that sounded strangely synonymous with what I am going through:
Thank goodness that sports car is still on the Porsche’s showroom floor and I have not yet put down the deposit, else one might think that I AM going through a midlife crisis!
But seriously, 9 out of the 10 signs above do indicate that perhaps I MIGHT be going through a “mini” midlife crisis.
Perhaps this isn’t a bad thing as it is helping me to evaluate NOW all that I’ve done in the PAST, and help me plan for what I am going to do in the FUTURE.
While researching this topic, although not much, I did come across some material that can help both men and women through this transitional period in their lives. Here are three “gems” that I’ve uncovered while doing the research for this speech:
Firstly, I ACKNOWLEDGE this period of transition and that it is natural for many people to go through it in their lifetime. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and really it needn’t be as dramatic as a “crisis”.
Secondly, I’ve become AWARE of the signs of the midlife crisis. My 10 signs above seem harmless enough, and I’m taking the necessary steps to manage them. However, there are some signs that can be rather destructive and should be safe-guarded against. Here are 6 of them:
Thirdly, I am taking ACTION by seeking clarity first. I am CLARIFYING EXACTLY where I am at the moment and where I want to go from here onward. Does that Porsche REALLY add value to my life right now, or would I rather want to focus on spending quality time with my family and friends? What EXACTLY are those elements that I am to increase that will move the needle in my life to new heights? Conversely, what EXACTLY are those elements I need to get rid of that suck the life from me and moves that needle down.
To conclude: YES, I am having a midlife crisis. BUT, by acknowledging this period, being aware of the signs and taking positive action to clarify exactly where I am and where I want to go next; this transition period could be the start of the most exciting and rewarding ride of my Life’s journey yet.
[i] “How to Morph Your Speech into a Book” is a seminar conducted by a fellow Toastmaster, Grant Senzani,.
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