Is Midlife Really a Crisis?

midlife crisisMost of you will be familiar with the phrase "midlife crisis" that people often bandy about describing the sometimes strange or at least uncharacteristic behavior that besets middle age. Some of that behavior is just harmlessly odd, while some people do some highly destructive things.

You probably know someone or other that went off the rails and did things like having extra-marital affairs, behaving like a person 20 years their junior, or even getting itchy feet and embarking on a midlife travel spree that they feel they need to make up for a boringly "stick in the mud" lifestyle or fulfil hitherto unfulfilled ambitions. But is this time of life really a crisis, or is there something else underpinning the need to behave oddly or even badly?

A Mundane Life

The vast majority of people lead a fairly normal life that involves leaving school with certain academic qualifications, getting a job, rising within the job, meeting a partner, getting married and starting a family. That family grows up, the kids leave home and start the cycle over again, while the parents grow old gracefully, retire and eventually leave this mortal realm the same way they came in. Hairless, toothless and penniless!

While that scenario may seem fairly mundane, it's how most people live and it gives people a fairly happy, contented life. However, that lifestyle is not for everyone. There are some who break out of the norm and want to do riskier, more exiting things with their lives. Some go off travelling around the world and are not happy staying in one place for very long. Others develop a skill or a natural gift and go on to become great athletes, musicians, mountain climbers, explorers, inventors or anything that pushes the envelope of what they are capable of.

Where Mundane Meets Exciting

If everyone stayed within the bounds of what they are happy to take from life, there would be no crises, no unfulfilled aspirations, no feeling of missing out on something. Everyone in this perfect world would be happy with their choices and this article would not be getting written.

But we don't live in a perfect world and different lifestyles inevitably collide. It may come through personal contact with people living a different lifestyle, or through reading books, magazines or watching certain shows on television. However it happens, the person in one life starts to crave a life that someone else is enjoying.

Enter the Crisis

It is inevitable that someone living a certain life will be content with it up until a point is reached when they reach an age where they suddenly realize that they may have fewer years left to them than they have already lived. The normal, average person may start to feel that life is passing them by and feel the need to do some exciting things before it's too late for them. The round the world traveller suddenly realizes that they have missed out on a happy married life and start looking at how they can settle down and find a partner of a similar age that wants to do the same.

The crisis appears when what people suddenly want to do clashes with what they are normally doing. It can trigger off a sudden craving to break free of the stay at home life in search of excitement and even an illicit encounter, or the yearning to experience the thrill of riding a huge, powerful motorbike or completely unsuitable (for their current lifestyle) sports car. Or it can be the wayward traveller becoming romantically involved with someone else's partner in a vain attempt to experience the stability of a relationship without considering the consequences.

In the end, the mid life crisis, if it comes at all, is generally short lived. If the person's behavior is not overly destructive, they usually return to normal life (for them) after a while and are better for experiencing that something different. For others, life may not be so kind and a broken marriage or the loss of friends can be the unhappy result of their actions.

For a very unfortunate few, their wild, even dangerous behavior can result in serious accidents or even death. Some feel the risk is justified. For those left behind to pick up the pieces, the resultant carnage is not so justified. Is midlife really such a crisis? Some will believe so.