How to enjoy your midlife crisis

37 going on 17
37 going on 17

I think I’m having a midlife crisis. And I’m loving it. Here are a few signs signs: I have redyed my hair with purple streaks. I have started going out a lot. I have developed appetites that could be described as cougar.

My driver’s licence, if the cops pull me over, might indicate that I’m actually 37, but I think I’ve been acting more like I’m 27. Or 17.

I choose not to call it a crisis, but a renaissance. Over the past 12 months I have felt I’ve had a reblooming. I’ve rediscovered all my favourite things. I’m more confident than ever. And I am embracing life like a long-lost friend.

What is going on? Last year I officially entered my late-30s. While more of a gnaw than a shock, it was a strange experience, like trying on an outfit that didn’t quite fit. Forty bobbed on the horizon like a Goodyear blimp.

Some things hadn’t quite been working out and I had to face some big decisions. I wondered where the past 10 years had gone. Life had hurtled by – so fast, I hadn’t been able to admire the view. And yet I felt I was standing still.

In my 20s, I felt like an adventurer, but now I was settled in my hometown contemplating my cat’s next neck scratch. I hadn’t written the Great Universal Novel. There was no husband or kids to speak of (just a very nice ex who still comes over and  fixes things – I call him my “nusband” or non-husband). And life was a little, well, meh.

But on the plus side, no husband or kids!

I decided to look on the bright side and took myself off on a jaunt around the world. It was kind of like Eat Pray Love, but with less praying and more partying. On my adventures I met many inspiring people. In Portland, I hiked to beautiful waterfalls and stayed with a
cat-loving yoga teacher who let me borrow her couch and her cats. In a small town, I bunked in a house full of young men, who played computer games well into the night. I remember thinking, what am I doing? This is ridiculous. But it was a lot of fun.

I took some writing courses and met other frustrated novelists from around the world.

In San Francisco, I went out dancing all night. I’d forgotten how much I loved to dance. In New York, I watched the sun come up over the rooftops in Chinatown talking to a bunch of new friends – who were, shock horror, my age.

In London, I asked my friend, “Am I too old for pink hair extensions?” I didn’t wait for his reply. “Bugger it,” I said, “if I’m going to have a midlife crisis, I’m going to enjoy it.” I’d recently met a punk woman knocking on 60 who still had rad hair and stories of rubbing mohawks with all these cool bands.

The trip reminded me of a lot of things I’d forgotten I loved. When I came home, I tried to keep up the momentum. I wanted to go out and try new things and have adventures and go dancing. So I have been. I’ve met some swell people I wouldn’t have if I’d sat at home with Tim Tams and a tabby. And it’s been a fun ride.

A midlife crisis shouldn’t be a bad thing. If you’re at the top of the hill, stop and admire the view. It’s not about what’s lacking, but appreciating what you do have. And if you really think those things are lacking, well, go out then and get them. It’s never too late.

As usual, I like to take inspiration from comedians – they’re modern philosophers.

Here’s a couple of quotes I enjoyed recently. Ellen DeGeneres: “It must be around 40, when you’re ‘over the hill’. I don’t even know why it’s a bad thing. When I go hiking and I get over the hill that means I’m past the hard part and there’s a snack in my future.”

And Ricky Gervais said: “Got a proper job at 28. Gave it up to try comedy at 38. Decided to get healthy at 48. It’s never too late. But do it now.”

So a midlife crisis might be about discovering a second youth. But it’s much better than that. When you’re older, you realise time is finite, so spend it wisely. Life is short. So embrace every moment. Sometimes that just means embracing a cat. But if you want to go out and dance till dawn, do it. After all, you’re only young twice.

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