Bondi attracts all walks of life. Whether you want to see or be seen, a leisurely stroll down Hall Street or the beach promenade will deliver on many fronts. Recently, while using the pedestrian crossing in front of Bondi Surf Club, I happened to take a look at a car that had stopped for me. It was some kind of expensive red convertible with what looked like a 50-year-old male behind the wheel and a female passenger half his age. The music coming from the car seemed to be at odds with his age, as was his clothing. I’m sure he was happy to be seen in this set-up – he certainly had that ‘cat who got the cream’ look about him – but the more I stared, the more I wondered whether this fellow was in the grips of some form of midlife crisis.
While I was transfixed on the scenario before me, I began to wonder what it actually meant to have a midlife crisis. The more I researched the topic, the more I realised there were no hard or fast rules, but there does seem to be some underlying themes. For some of us, as we approach the middle or senior years, there can often develop a sense of disillusionment, or despair if you like. As we review the past, if we conclude that our life hasn’t really amounted to much in comparison to the starry-eyed expectations of our youth, then that may lead to our crisis. In other words, it’s a stage where we look back on what we’ve done in life and compare it to what we had hoped or planned. Disappointment may result when what we have achieved doesn’t stack up against what we planned.
To give this idea more scope, we need to look into what is called ‘lifespan psychology’, or how we as individuals change psychologically over time. As we get older we start to ask ourselves questions like, ‘What have I achieved?’, ‘Was it all worth it?’ and the big one, ‘What’s next?’. These questions tend to revolve around career, marriage, children and health. There has been much research into lifespan psychology and theories abound, most of which describe how we transform through certain stages until we ultimately pass away.
Different theorists, despite using varying timelines, say pretty much the same thing when it comes to our careers. The age between 25-44 is seen to be a productive time where we are establishing ourselves, working out what type of career we want and starting to build a stable life structure around those choices. It’s the back end of this time from say the age of 35 that things start to change. It’s from this age we make a discerned effort to carve out a secure place in our job, with potential to advance up the ladder a bit in terms of hierarchy, promotion and higher pay. We may also start to feel pressures outside of work such as family responsibilities and community entrenchment.
From around the 45-60 year mark things get more interesting. Often described as a period of midlife transition, it is the so-called ‘maintenance’ phase where ambition can take a back seat and be replaced with productive energies that benefit society as a whole. We are known to reformulate our goals here, as by now they have mostly been achieved from a career standpoint. We no longer strive to get ahead and have usually dropped the lofty ambitions. The concept of self is no longer shaped by surpassing past feats, and we may settle into resignation and reality. Often during this period we think of our legacy, leading us to the ‘what’s next’ phase.
How do you know you’re having a midlife crisis? Warning signs include stress, burnout, apathy, feeling like you’re on autopilot, loss of purpose, being successful but unsatisfied, and questioning purpose and self-worth. Oh, and perhaps buying a new red sportscar. If any of these symptoms resonate with you or you feel you’re a bit stuck or at a crossroads, please seek professional help.
Have you got a question? Please contact Jeremy at bondicounsellingservices.com.