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Wednesday, 23 January 2013


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And it's never too late to start wanting a red Ferrari, Ctein. [g]


I think the feeling behind a midlife crisis can be summed up in the chorus of a song I heard on KROQ in Los Angeles many years ago:

"Birth. School. Work. Death."

Couldn't agree more with the mid-life crisis thing. Countless mothers have asked us "Would you jump off a cliff just because everyone else did?" Likewise, if you haven't died yet, what makes you think you will, just because a bunch of other people have?

Of course, a bit more realistically, you probably don't have more than another 40-50 years to do all the things you've dreamed of, so don't wait!

John Glenn flew a Space Shuttle mission when 77. Chuck Yeager was still flying supersonic fighter aircraft into his 70s while Norman Vaughan, who went to Antarctica with Admiral Byrd in the late 1920s, was running the Iditarod sled dog race (Anchorage to Nome, nominally 1049 miles) and mounting Antarctic expeditions in his late 80s. There's hope for all of us early 60s types, if we stay reasonably fit.

A year ago at age 57 I decided to do battle with Father Time. I now only eat whole foods at proper proportions and perform weight lifting exercises 5 days a week. I've shed much fat and am noticeably stronger with improved muscle tone.

Mid-life crisis? I dunno. More like a last ditch effort to halt and in some ways reverse damage done due to poor eating habits and lack of quality exercise. Not trying to live longer really but am trying to add some quality to my older years.

This routine has added a new vigor and confidence to my life. At work I no longer feel like the old guy trying to compete with my younger peers. I now have more energy than most of them. My advice? Don't go down without a fight. (Health willing)

Well, we all know, after Martin Heidegger, we're 'Sein zum Tode'. The awareness of death is what distinguishes us from other species and prompts those 'live life like there's no tomorrow' and 'eat dessert first' clichés. (The latter doesn't certainly apply to me; I prefer soup first, but let's not get too literal.) It is only natural, then, that we want to taste life while we can and try to make the most of it - no matter how old we are. It's the sense of incompleteness, and the feeling of no longer being able to get anything worthwhile from life, that cause those "midlife crisis".
I believe it's never too late. I started photographing a month before I was 47, i. e. less than three years ago (thus way past the age people normally start photographing), but I'm far from being the most accomplished example of starting something new at a certain age. Leni Riefenstahl (she may have been linked to the IIIrd Reich, but she was nevertheless a fascinating person) discovered underwater photography at 70, and we've all heard about grandmas parachuting for the first time for celebrating their 75th anniversary and people getting their university degrees at an old age.
One day I went swimming - an exercise I recommend to everyone - and I saw an old man swimming in perfect style. Most old men are poor swimmers, but that one had a wonderful style, with wide, perfectly synchronized movements. Intrigued, I asked him how old he was. "I'm 74" - he answered, smiling cheekily. "I learned to swim last year", he proceeded. I guess he doesn't pay much attention to midlife crises.
No, it's never too late.

As a family physician in a small town, I spend a lot of time talking to people about their lives and their aspirations. One of the most depressing observations is how many people genuinely loathe what they're doing with most of their time. This generally means unpleasant or dissatisfying employment, but I've also been struck by how many people burn their available leisure hours watching the idiot box, or consumed with mindless 'recreational shopping'. Gosh, but you can do better than that, even if you're stuck with a soul-sucking job and a gargoyle boss.

I try to do my small part by encouraging folks to cultivate an avocation that is creative, engrossing, captivating, and likely to enlarge their horizons.

You know. Something like photography. Particularly now that the barriers to entry are so very low, with really excellent image quality from small and affordable cameras.

I have large prints on the walls of (what I consider) my best work, and I gently encourage folks who seem stuck to pursue something similar that they can feel passionate about. I haven't had anyone drop that pointless career as CEO and run off to become a fine art photographer; but I have been thrilled to see more than a few folks take up the hobby with delight, and several have proudly shown me their awards from contests they entered. I'll sometimes run off a large print of an especially good photo one of my patients is happy with; their appreciation is well worth the paper & ink.

Sometimes I think I do more good for my patients by encouraging them to feed their souls than by treating their high blood pressure or diabetes.

As the unwitting instigator of this post, I must say that I unfortunately use the term "mid-life crisis" blithely and rather too often, and I almost never mean it in relation to age! Just a point at which we re-assess what on earth it is we are up to and what the dickety it's all about. Could happen at any age, happens to me all the time....

Good thoughts.

My favorite expression of the idea I read on a mailing list over a decade ago & I've tried to live by it ever since:

"Live like you will never die, love like you've never been hurt, dance like no-one is watching."
--Alex White

Personally, I prefer to think of the pointless sportscar I recently purchased as a midlife reward rather a midlife crisis toy. I doubt that I'll ever be in the position to buy another one in the future, but I am very much enjoying this one in the here and now! 8^)

Funny you mention this Ctein. I'm 57. I just sold my house to a real estate investor to speed up the selling process, and I'm moving to Indiana to begin a career transporting RV trailers. Ever since I was a little kid I always fantasized about being an over-the-road truck driver. Transporting RVs isn't exactly that since I'll be driving a one-ton dually diesel pickup truck that I'll have to purchase, but it's still truck driving, and I'll still be on the road.

Mid-life crisis? I don't know. Part of my original motivation to move was finding a reason to escape liberal, tax and regulate anything that moves, Massachusetts, but remembering my truck driving desire as a youth has rendered the political motivation almost irrelevant. I can't wait to hit the road and possibly discover, as a bonus, that it is still possible to be free (or at least create the illusion of freedom) in America in 2013 and beyond.

Your essay has inspired me even more. Thankyou.

Thank you, Ctein!

I think someone said a long time ago "So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

I'm 75, and my philosophy (learned from my Dad's example) is this: Think young. Thinking old will kill you.

First sign of a mid-life crisis is when the new Corvette looks exciting!

"Rage, rage, against the dying of the light".

When he was in his fifties, Howard Schatz left a successful career as a retina specialist in San Francisco and moved to New York with his wife Beverly (who is also his business partner) and became a successful commercial photographer. Howard and people like him possess the four qualities that are necessary to accomplish something like this: vision, determination, organization, and talent.

Ctein, This post really hit home. I just retired from a 35 year career that I enjoyed to begin my work as an artist/photographer. I do find it hard to move forward with all the other demands of life that we all have to cope with, but all and all I am enjoying the journey. Great post love your thoughts

Its a shame everyone is so terrified of being "old" in modern culture. I'm 45 and assumming I live the expected 78 years that is typical for my gender/race I'd say I'm actually PAST middle age.

With age comes wisdom. I'm hoping I am lucky enough to become "old". (Mind you there is a big difference between "old" and "decrepid")

63 is not middle aged, its gloriously old.

I realized a while back that the cost of not preparing to live forever is arbitrarily large, so it almost doesn't matter how unlikely it is.

My attitude is that all the time I have to do what I want in is NOW. Not that I don't expect to live another 30-40 years in fact I aspire to live to be 100+ but... I can't do anything in tomorrow (or any other future time) until it gets here, until it is NOW.

Stay out of the Germanic Mid-west...people slave away in punishing jobs their whole lives, being told they're expendable; just for a chance to be left alone when they retire, so they can sit in the garage.

No one expects, or even wants to work past 60 if they can help it. And if you're like me, and came back here for ageing family reasons, not only will people not work with you, or hire you past the age of 55, they'll ridicule you for even trying to develop something; and look at you like you're crazy or a loser that has to work because he didn't get a decent 30 year job.

You're not as old as you feel, you're as old as the people around you try and make you feel with their incessant opinions and truncated lives! Sometimes your survival is dependent on moving someplace with a more modern culture!

I have managed, since my early twenties, to have a midlife crisis every five years. I highly recommend it, repeatedly asking one's self, "Am I happy on the path that I am on?"

Harry Truman didn't get into politics till in his 50's

Alive at 60 and planning a major new life adventure. I understand this blot.

Thank you for this joyful read, Ctein! 63 in 28 days. As a not quite young woman -- you know in those olden days when they didn't call us adults until we were 21? -- I didn't know exactly what I wanted to "be when I grew up." I DID know, though, something I DIDN'T want and that was to be in any kind of job with a forced retirement age so I came up with this solution, "I want to be an eccentric old woman who is loved by young people." When I told my two 20-something kids that a couple of years ago, my oldest burst out laughing and said, "Well, you've got the first part down pat!!!"

ATM my goal is to live to be 120 while taking all the precautions necessary to prevent decripedness from setting in which is basically, in my understanding, to just live with passion and keep moving every day. So, I did the math after some seemed to think that your living another 40 years might be a stretch and discovered that my goal is 57 years away yet....

Good luck, Ctein!!!!

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