Mid-Life Crisis

I am going to be turning 40 this year. That is old. I think about this once in a while, and wonder what kind of an affect this will have on me. I am told this is a time when some have a mid-life crisis.
I was asked a few weeks ago by a coworker when I was going to have my mid-life crisis. In one way I took it as a compliment. Perhaps he saw me as someone who appeared to be reasonably happy, and had not seen me depressed for a significant period of time. At least he saw no obvious evidence of a mid-life crisis. The wikipedia defines a mid-life crisis this way:

A mid-life crisis is an emotional state of doubt and anxiety in which a person becomes uncomfortable with the realization that life is halfway over. It commonly involves reflection on what the individual has done with his or her life up to that point, often with feelings that not enough was accomplished. The individuals experiencing such may feel boredom with their lives, jobs, or their partners, and may feel a strong desire to make changes in these areas. The condition is also called the beginning of individuation, a process of self-actualization that continues on to death. The condition is most common ranging from the ages of 35-45, and affects men more often than women.

I really don’t feel a mid-life crisis coming on, any more than usual. I am quite prone to self-evaluation, perhaps more than is healthy. When my coworker asked about my mid-life crisis I told him that I already had it. When he asked when, I told him it happened when I was about 15.

As a young boy, I fancied myself to be quite an athlete. When I was about 9 or 10 I was perhaps one of the best athletes for my age in my town. I was a pitcher and shortstop on my little league teams, I was a leading scorer on my basketball teams, and I was the fastest guy on the football team. The idea of being a professional athlete was more of an expectation than a dream in my naive mind.

By the time I was in 9th grade I was no longer one of the best athlete in town. I may have had some quickness and coordination, but not the strength to go with it. I also lacked a fierce aggressive nature. I gave up on football by then – I was only going to get myself hurt. I understood that being really tall was an advantage in basketball, and I wasn’t all that tall. Baseball was my last hope.

The day I got cut from the JV baseball team was one of the worst days of my life. It felt so unjust (some would agree, but that is another story). I went home as a failure, and laid on my bed and cried. This was not an angry tantrum. There was much more to it than that. I had grown to see my value as a person in terms of athletic ability. Now the one thing in life that I thought I had some talent in was gone. I not only was not great, I was not even very good. I was without worth. I realized that my life would not be a life of realized dreams, but a life filled with responsibilities and obligations largely spent doing something that was not my first choice. My fragile self-esteem was gone. What on earth would I do? What did it matter?

Kids get cut from school teams all the time. The dream of being a professional athlete is a common one. Was my experience that much different? I don’t know. I fell so fast. My dreams were ripped off like a Band-Aid unexpectedly. I was not prepared. But on that day I got cut I knew that life was in many ways going to be dreary and routine. I had no alternative but to accept it. My goals and dreams up to that point were never going to happen, so I better get on with an average life in a practical way.

Maybe I will still have a mid-life crisis one of these days, but the lowered expectations of life from being cut from the team may make the crisis less severe. Any suggestions for what to do during this typically difficult time of turning 40? Perhaps it will be no big deal.

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6 Responses to “Mid-Life Crisis”


  1. 1 annegb May 23, 2006 at 12:04 am

    40’s not so bad. I like being older myself.

  2. 2 Eric Nielson May 23, 2006 at 8:35 am

    I hoe your right annegb.

  3. 3 C Jones May 23, 2006 at 10:47 am

    I think that the idea that those in their 20’s and 30’s are the only ones out there making their dreams come true is a myth. Sure, you know your limitations better at 40, but you also know your strengths. And by 40 you are usually in a stronger and more stable financial and professional position. Why do you think it is usually older guys riding all those Harleys? Because by then they can afford it!
    So I say that turning 40 is a great excuse to go out and have an adventure and make something happen that you always wanted to do.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson May 23, 2006 at 11:37 am

    I think the problem is that the dreams of those in their 20’s are often unrealistic, and not realized. I think for many it is not until they get older that they realize this.

    Anyway, the adventure thing sounds good. I’m not very spontaneous or creative in this area. I’ll probably end up having some cake after dinner.

  5. 5 John May 24, 2006 at 9:19 am

    Mid-life crises should be exclusively for those whose life views are entirely this-worldly. In reality, we all tend to suffer at least a little from this malady.
    But if we try to develop an eternal perspective on our lives, then lost dreams of earthly glory are seen in their true light–as expressions of our youthful folly, lack of real faith, and extreme worldliness. We all know it might be fun to quit our jobs, leave our wives and families, buy a Harley, shave our heads, grow a handle-bar mustache, dress in leather, and “hit the road, Jack, and never come back no more, no more, no more . . . ” with a beautiful, much younger, girl on the seat behind us. But when we remind ourselves that we are Latter-day Saints and our real lives are eternal in nature, then we see how shallow most of these worldly dreams really are. Constantly reminding ourselves of our eternal nature and goals and the meaningless character of worldly goals should help us through our mid-life crises.

  6. 6 annegb May 24, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    Well, I have gone through a midlife crisis this year as Sarah got married and we have no kids at home and we are finding our new way together.

    Plus there’s menopause and well, life is so dang hard.

    But I didn’t buy a convertible.

    Eric, the thing is the older you get, the more people you are older than, and the more people you can boss around.


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