I never thought I’d be thinking about middle age in my 30s, although I’m sure there was a time in my life when 30 sounded ancient. Now, the older I get the younger all the ages ahead of me sound. 60? Still young! 70? Lots of life left to live! Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
I’ve always felt older in my head than my age would suggest, and there have been years when my actual age was in question because of some youthful attributes on my face. (Side note: It’s embarrassing to be mistaken for a high school student when you are actually a full-time journalist right out of college doing the reporting on the high school.)
I’m no longer trying to hang on to youth because I don’t even know what that means really, and frankly, I’m okay with leaving my 30s behind. I’m preparing myself to embrace 40 with hope and optimism. I have 2 1/2 more years to prepare, but lately I’ve been feeling more middle-aged.
- Most of my conversations with friends center on health issues and griping about insurance. I literally stood in the driveway of a friend’s house recently complaining about insurance rates and asking after her health. We’re only 37! How did this happen?
- And speaking of health issues, I’m significantly more aware of mine. It’s like my body has given up. Now I talk freely with friends about bowel movements and words like “probiotics” are part of my vocabulary. Ew, gross. (And if you need a couple of good laughs watch these SNL spoofs of Activia commercials. I used to think they were funny. Now they’re a little too funny if you know what I mean. Here and here.) Next thing you know I’ll be eating bran muffins.
- I’m reading the newspaper again. Not often. We don’t have a subscription, but the day after the Paris attacks, I was eating breakfast at Chick-fil-a with my kids and I read more pages in newsprint than I had in years. I’m increasingly less tolerant of online news and the articles written solely from one “side” or the other. I used to read the Associated Press wire religiously as part of my job as copy editor for a daily newspaper. I miss it.
- When considering what to bring to a potluck recently, I was at a loss. I love to cook but we’d been sick for two weeks, off and on, and sometimes when I’m out of the rhythm of cooking, I lose inspiration. I got a bit nostalgic for my mom’s 7-layer salad, so I looked up a recipe (this one by The Pioneer Woman is what I went with and it was so yummy). Making a dish my mom “always used to make” and still does just makes me feel old. Not in a bad way, necessarily.
- In a room full of people, I’m nowhere near the youngest, but I’m also not the oldest. I’m generally smack-dab in the middle.
Even a year ago, I would have seen these as signs that my life was OVER. That’s still a struggle, and I imagine it will only get worse the closer I get to 40 and beyond. So, I’m glad to have an encouraging guide to help me navigate these uncertain waters.
It’s a book, of course, because books are my favorite teachers. It’s called 40/40 Vision: Clarifying Your Mission in Midlife by Peter Greer and Greg Lafferty. It’s a close look at the small Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes and what the great king Solomon has to say about the middle years viewed in retrospect. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.)
I was worried that this book would not be “for me.” I know, in part, my mission, and my calling as a writer is not dependent on my age. I’m not going to be forced into early retirement from my freelance career or from writing novels because of my age. I don’t feel adrift in my overall calling, though I do sense the need for clarity in some areas.
So, I’m happy to report that this book is for me. And you. And whoever is looking at the latter half of their life with fear, confusion, or worry. It’s not just a book for those who work full time or minister full time, nor is it just for men, who stereotypically have a “midlife crisis.” This is as much a book for a mom whose kids are growing more independent and who is rediscovering her free time as it is for a man stuck in a job he isn’t sure matters. It’s for the happily married man and the dissatisfied wife. The potential for a midlife crisis is not limited to one certain type of person.
Greer and Lafferty show us how to look at our lives–past and future–from the incomparable vantage point of the middle.
Opening our eyes to our own mortality and limitations can allow us to live more fully. Midlife is an opportunity to leave some of our youthful folly behind, to look back on our first forty and refocus on what matters most for our next forty–or however long we have. It’s a time to prepare for our second act, to get our second wind. (16)
I like the idea of midlife being a time of preparation, a chance to catch our breaths and evaluate what has been working in life and what hasn’t. This has revolutionized how I view the big 4-0.
And the authors don’t just address jobs and callings. They tackle issues of mortality, purpose, identity, friendship and building true wealth, among other things. And they do it with stories, both theirs and others, humor and grace.
If you feel stuck in the middle of life with little hope for the years ahead, or you dread the onset of middle age, this book will restore your focus to see all the good that lies ahead.
Check out the book trailer to decide for yourself if it’s for you.
What does the phrase “middle age” mean to you? How do you handle your own aging process?
And if you’ve already crossed into middle age, what have you found on the other side?