Midlife Crisis

The Scream

Yesterday I heard someone on the radio say that a midlife crisis is often brought on by one apprehending that those hopes and dreams of one’s youth would never actually be realized in what remains of his or her life.

Time continues to pass. Year by year, little pieces of those youthful dreams and bits here and there of those youthful ideals fall away. By the time that many people arrive at their forties or, certainly, their fifties, so much of the vision of one’s youth has worn away that only a skeleton remains of that youthful optimism which contained all of those hopes and dreams from a time so long ago. Time remakes us all.

But while we are remade as we grow older, this concept need not necessarily be negative. For it is not so much that we did not attain the bar, as it is that the bar was simply unattainable—too high from the start—or that we figured out along the way that attaining the bar was not nearly so important as we had once thought.

In our youth, we believe that being a world-beater is the most important thing in life. As time moves on, however, we come to realize that solid connections with family and friends are so much more important than beating back the world. We come to realize that reading a bedtime story to a grandchild is so much more satisfying than landing that huge contract at work. We come to understand that just showing up in the right place at the right time can impact upon our children’s and grand children’s futures so much more than running out and trying to change the world in the way we once imagined that we would change it.

When we begin our adult journey, the path is wide and it spreads out before us like a limitless open field, abundant with spring flowers. As we continue to move along it, the path begins to narrow, the flowers become fewer, and we are increasingly presented with offshoots of the path from which we must choose in order to continue our life’s journey.

For many of us, the original dream dies slowly along the way and we end up far afield from the original destination. But the final, unintended destination may not only be the more satisfying one, but the one with so much greater impact on our little carved-out portion of the world than we would have ever had on the greater world around us had we unflinchingly pursued the original dream.

God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame. —Elizabeth Barrett Browning


  1. Wow. You’re a good writer. Loved this. I’m not at midlife yet but already agree “solid connections with family are much more important than beating back the world.” HGS

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