How to handle a midlife crisis

totogal asks: I know dogs don’t go much through what we humans know as midlife crisis, but boy, I sure am going through something- I’ve never been this unsure about what to do about anything. Applied and interviewed for a bunch of jobs that I’m not even sure now that I want, all of which involve moving, but then I think that’s a mistake because I’ll miss my friends here. sigh My cat seems to be happy wherever I am…or even just looking out the window at the people walking on the street below (he’s doing that now)… any advice??? (Don’t suggest improv…I already tried that and totally suck at it!!!!)

Hi totogal –

Midlife crises are TOUGH!

For those readers who don’t know about them, when humans hit a certain age – usually between 40 and 50 – they often find themselves wanting to change their lives in a major way.  Their job either hasn’t gone well enough, or hasn’t fulfilled them enough, and they want to change it.  Or maybe they want to move to a new place, or change their relationship status in some way.  But they don’t know what to do about that feeling!  Basically, it’s like they’re teenagers all over again, and just as confused as they were thirty years before!

I had to watch Handsome go through a terrible one, which lasted a couple of years.  He was so lost, and so miserable.  Only one thing was ever able to make him happy in his life then (and that one thing happens to be writing this answer right now!!).  And even when he found a new career he loved, it still took him a couple more years to “get his mojo back” as they say.  It was as though he had never accomplished anything, or been loved, or learned anything.  Like he’d lost his spine.

But he did come through it.  And came through with a great deal of new wisdom that’s served him well.

So, totogal, what advice can I give you at this time?  Well, my first advice you won’t like at all – forget your cat and get a dog! – but since you clearly won’t do that, I’ll move on to more likely suggestions.

1)    Find your passion.  This is the most important, and hardest, thing you can do in this quest.  What is it that you would love to do?  What is it that you have never done, or haven’t done since you were a kid, that would make you feel fulfilled?  What do you really love?  When you find that, you’ll be able to pursue it, and that’s really the key.


2)    The opposite question – what must you hold onto?  It sounds like you don’t really want to move, but you might be willing to.  Is there anything you absolutely refuse to give up (For example, Handsome had a simple rule, “Everything is negotiable except Shirelle.”  Oh he just makes me swoon sometimes!!)?  If there is such a thing, let that also inform your choice.  It certainly will tell you something about your passions.


3)    The question no middle-aged person likes, but has to admit: this job has to sustain you as your body gets older.  What is there that has been okay for you, but is getting less so?  If you’ve been working on film crews, maybe it’s time to think about working in the production office.  If you’ve been a grade school teacher on your feet all day, maybe it’s time to think about moving into administration.


4)    One great thing to do is to ask your friends, and family, a simple question:  “What am I good at?”  Maybe you’ve spent your whole life chasing a dream (which of course I totally support), but that dream was never your best gift.  Handsome put his all into one career, but when that fizzled, people told him that he was really good at some other stuff – and it turned out they were right, and his work has gone well ever since.


5)    And last but not least, trust the process, totogal.  It took Handsome two years to find the right career, and he was looking, reading, and thinking about it in all his free time.  Maybe it’ll take you that long, or longer.  But you’ll know when you find it.  There are lots of good books to check out, from famous ones like “What Color is Your Parachute” to quirkier ones, like one Handsome got a lot out of, “Creating the Work You Love,” by Rick Jarrow.  Just keep your search up, and don’t settle for a life that doesn’t feel right to you.

Now when I say that last bit, I don’t mean that your job necessarily has to fulfill all your deepest needs.  Some people find jobs that sustain them so that they can do what they want outside of work, from parenting to hobbies to art, to whatever.

But either way, finding the right one is your goal – and it’s a big one.  How important was getting a part in the class play, or who you went to the eighth grade dance with?  Well this choice is just as important, and just as easy and hard: you’re defining yourself, to yourself and others.

And remember, totogal, lots of people find themselves in the same frustration you’re feeling, but for good reasons, can’t make the changes in their lives you can.  You’re lucky that you have these choices.  Always remember that.

Take it as an adventure, relish the discoveries you make, and dive in to the crashing waves of its mystery!  It will be so amazing to see who you are when you come out of it!




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