What Are People Looking For At Midlife?

When people experience an upheaval at midlife, it is often because they are looking to fix their lives, to fulfill some need or desire, to be different than they have been in the past, or to have a chance to achieve whatever they have always wanted.  Individuals are rarely looking to mess up other people’s lives but that can happen when change is set in motion – other lives can be collateral damage. 

People usually look for whatever they haven’t experienced, for example, if someone has been entirely responsible for 40 years, she may want to feel free. If he has worked hard, he may want a leisurely life or more fun. If he has missed his kids growing up because he was working long hours, he may want a baby to give him another chance.  If she was the person who always thought about others, she may want to think about herself first for a change.

At midlife, people want to repair their own lives before it is too late; before time runs out. Think about the things you always wanted to be or do – maybe go to school, play guitar, start your own business, have a family, or simply to feel free.  If you have wanted any of these things and have not gotten them, at midlife, they may look even more appealing because you may not have many more chances.  Carl Jung, the psychologist, described midlife as the high point in the arc of life – we have done all the things that we have done, we have acted in all the ways we have been.  What about the rest?  What about the life that we have not lived?  The urge may be strong to get a taste of that life – the road not taken. Remember Robert Frost’s poem about two paths that diverged in a wood.  He believed that he took “the one less traveled” and that made “all the difference.”  We can only take one path at a time.  But midlife can be the period of reviewing the path not taken and deciding, once and for all, if we want to march down that road.

 P.S. I’m taking tap dancing lessons for the first time in my life, so I guess that shows we can try new stuff even after midlife has passed. Try, yes, be good at it, no.

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