Everybody told me it would happen when I turned 40. Of course, I thought it would never happen to me. My body started making subtle shifts. First, my hands became dryer. Then I couldn't see as well up close. Finally my body held onto weight like it might be stuck in the Amazon with only bugs to eat. Those were all the outward signs.
However, internally I started to change, too. The thought that I repeated in my mind was, "It's halfway over." I couldn't get over how quickly time had passed and that now I sat in the middle of my life.
Growing up in the 1980's I remember watching movies where parents would go through a midlife crisis. The dad drove down the tree-lined suburban neighborhood in a red convertible sports car. The mom stood in the kitchen in her new aerobics leotard and leg warmers. Sports cars and a new body hasn't been my experience, however.
My midlife crisis began with an awareness that my time on earth is, in fact, going to end. This led me to question what I've done with it to make it count and what I'm going to do with the rest of it.
When I looked up the word "crisis" in the dictionary, one of the definitions was, "a situation that has reached a critical phase." It's common to view a midlife crisis as negative, but it has the potential to be positive. Midlife is a critical phase in our lives where we get to evaluate the first half and decide what we want to do with the second half.
Here are ten signs that you are in a midlife crisis based on my experience. Some of these signs are fun, but others are serious. They are ten signs you may not expect:
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1. Watching YouTube Videos for Style Advice for Women in Their 40's and 50's
There's a fine line between looking young and not looking too young. In your 30's you can still get away with dressing like you're in your 20's. However, by the time you reach 40, it's no longer cool. Instead, it looks like you're desperate to hold onto something that has passed.
My midlife crisis was also a fashion crisis. I felt like it was time to grow up a bit in the clothes department. Where do you go when you don't know how to dress your age? Youtube, of course. I began to watch countless Youtube videos showing me current styles for middle-aged women.
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2. Googling How Old Actresses Were in Different Films or Shows to See if They Were Your Age Now
It first started when I realized that now I'm substantially older than any of the characters in the T.V. show Friends. When I started watching the show, the characters seemed so old being in their late 20's and early 30's. Now I know they were babies.
That led me to research what actresses look like now, and how old actresses were when they were in different movies. I began to compare myself to celebrities when they were my age. I think this is because what my mom used to tell me is true: Your body ages faster than your mind, so you never quite believe that you're really as old as you are.
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3. The Frequent Thought of Grandchildren and an Urgency to Finish the Scrapbooks
I’m embarrassed to say that I have not finished either of my girls’ baby scrapbooks. But turning 40 motivated me to get them done. In our digital age, all of our photographs are on the computer, but I can’t imagine my grandchildren sitting around a computer screen with one of my girls to look at pictures of when she was young.
Which brings me to even the thought of grandchildren. Never before did I think about having grandchildren. My grandmother was my age when I was born because my mom was 22 when she had me. And even though my girls are only three and six years old, I have started thinking about what being a grandmother will be like. Thus the urgency to get the scrapbooks finished.
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4. A Desire to Write Letters to Your Children Giving Them All Your Advice
My family was not one to sit around and tell stories about “the good ol’ days.” And my parents did not give me much advice about how life works best as an adult. That may be why I want this for my children. After I turned 40 I wanted to get everything I ever learned down on paper for my children and grandchildren to read. I didn’t think about whether they would listen to the advice or not. I just wanted to do my due diligence in telling them everything I could.
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5. Thinking about Retirement for the First Time Ever
Growing up I planned my whole life - college, marriage, and then children. But in my mind, I never got so far as retirement. What is retirement anyway? Again, it’s hard to think you’ll ever even be old enough for retirement when you’re still so young.
When I became middle-aged, I began to wonder what retirement would look like for me. I still don't have a clear picture, but one thing is for sure, I want to make it count and end my life displaying a strong legacy. Sailing off into the sunset playing bridge doesn't appeal to me.
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6. A Feeling that Everyone Younger Has Accomplished So Much More Than You Have
It was in my mid to late 30’s when social media and blogging became popular. After that, it seemed that everyone was doing “big things” like starting businesses and nonprofits, writing books, and serving children through foster care and adoption. I became jealous. So many of these women were still in their 20’s and early 30’s, and it seemed like they had their life calling figured out. Here I was just past 40 years old, and I had not accomplished near what they had.
Overcoming the feeling that I haven’t accomplished enough has been difficult, and sometimes I still struggle with it. I have to remind myself that God has allowed my experiences and circumstances for reasons specific to me. There’s always going to be someone who has gone farther faster.
7. Caring More about Health than Weight Loss
Weight loss is nice. However, a midlife crisis changes your perspective from losing weight to the hope of getting on the floor with your grandkids in twenty years. Being concerned about my body image began to seem shallow when I hit middle age. I became frustrated with myself that after all these years body image is still a “thing” in my life. Health, on the other hand, became of significant importance. My goal shifted from looking good on the outside to being good on the inside in order to live as long as possible.
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8. Determination to Demolish Strongholds Once and for All
There are struggles that I've been dealing with for years. Whether it be body image issues or resentment or procrastination, I suddenly became tired of dealing with the same junk year after year. I thought to myself, "I want the second half to be different," and so I began to work on issues that have bogged me down for years.
This started with consistent Christian counseling. Even though I've talked to a counselor throughout my adult life, middle-age made me determined to demolishing strongholds.
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9. Realizing Your Parents Did the Best They Could
Struggles in my life have caused me to look at my parents and their shortcomings in a new light. I realize, for the first time, the humanity of my parents. I understand that they did the best they could with what they had.
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10. Counting the Number of Decades You Have Left
We know we're in a crisis when we start to number our days. However, instead of thinking, "I only have four decades left," choose to say, "If God wills, I still have four decades left." Determine to make your midlife crisis others-focused instead of self-focused.
The Bible teaches us to "number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). But it was hard for me to number my days in my 20's and 30's. The lack of experiential depth made me naive even though I didn't mean or want to be. It wasn't a purposeful denial of the finality of life, but I didn't have a frame of reference to make that mindset a part of my everyday thinking.
My 40's have given me that frame of reference. I realized I was in a midlife crisis when I felt an urgency in my life. I've felt uncomfortable and even sad at times, but also determined to use the next forty years to build a strong legacy for God's glory. This is positive. It's allowed me to look at the future and see the possibilities of what can be for me and my children. It's also been fun!
What am I going to do with the next forty years that is going to serve others well and point them to Jesus? Turning to this perspective allows the season of midlife to become a blessing.
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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Originally published Thursday, 28 February 2019.