A few years ago, I believed I had it all. I was healthy, strong and in the best shape of my life. I had also just gotten married to an amazing man. I was a professional working at a well-known pharmaceutical company, and my husband and I had just bought a lovely home in a charming neighborhood. I wanted to pinch myself! Life seemed so grand.
And yet, I felt something was missing. There had to be more to this life. I then realized this was the beginning of my version of a midlife crisis. Now, I didn't get into a panic and buy a flashy new car, get plastic surgery, or whatever cliché comes to mind when one hears the term "midlife crisis". Rather, I did a complete life audit and came to the following truths. As painful as these truths were, I am so thankful for them, as they have made me embark on a journey to self-actualization, which is probably the most important thing I can do for myself right now.
So what are the truths, the reasons that I'm grateful for what used to be the dreaded midlife crisis?
1. The first half of my life was a lie. I came to the sad but honest realization that I didn't even know who I was anymore. I had been so busy worrying about other people's happiness that I had no idea what brought ME joy. As a result, I made a vow to figure out who I was and what fulfills me, letting go of other people's expectations.
2. In rediscovering who I am, I've been introduced to the greatest teachers out there. Arianna Huffington, Oprah, Brene Brown, Susan Cain, and James Altucher are just a few of my mentors in this journey. If you are struggling with what to do with your life, if you need encouragement, I highly recommend reading the works of these great people. They have helped me in more ways than my college education EVER did.
3. Mindfulness and meditation have had a profound impact in my overall well-being. Through silence and stillness, I was able to identify all the things that brought me joy and fulfillment. I also learned that all the "things" that I was taught would bring me happiness -- money, job security, social status, etc. weren't all they were cracked up to be.
4. As much as I hated to admit it, I was partially responsible for my situation. While we cannot control everything that happens to us, we can control how we react to situations. I was stuck in a job that I didn't enjoy, let alone find interesting. I was also being mistreated at work. Fear clouded my thinking so that I convinced myself that this was as good as it could get, no matter how soul-sucking my job really was. I thought that in a time where stable employment was a gift, I should be grateful and stay where it was "safe". Then one day, as I sat at my desk in despair, it dawned on me that NO -- in fact I DON'T have to stay at a job that I don't enjoy FOREVER. Nor should I be mistreated at said job. As a result, I'm back in school part time to get a degree in a different area of work. I've also spoken up to my management about mistreatment so at least they are aware of the situation and I no longer have to suffer in silence.
5. Finally, the most important lesson I've learned from my midlife crisis, is that I am enough. For the first half of my life, I struggled to live up to other people's expectations, when the truth was that I was just fine as I was all along. I was perfect even with all my imperfections, and I was worthy of joy and belonging just like everyone else. Now I embrace who I am, grateful for the wisdom that I am enough.
So while people may dread the midlife crisis, I am grateful for mine. It is part of my evolution. It is essential to my growth. Had I not learned all of the lessons above, I would still be stagnant, never reaching beyond mediocrity. That's not to say I won't have a few falls along the way on this new journey, but at least I'm trying and not settling for what's comfortable or safe anymore. For the first time ever, I'm writing my own story and holding myself accountable for the next chapter. So when you have your own mid-life crisis, don't dismiss it. Listen to what your true self is telling you so that you too can reach your highest potential. It can be the best gift you give yourself.