As I watch many of my friends make college visits with their kids this summer, I realize that culturally, we’re missing a beat here.
We send our kids off to college to “find themselves”, which for some means growing their hair and writing beat poetry; for others, drinking out of a keg. Regardless of their choice, they are given the time and space to grow, change, prepare and plan for their future.
I think it’s the midlife events themselves that are giving me pause—losing my parents, my sister and good friend contracting cancer, deaths of people my age. Why does it take events of this gravity to give us occasion to pause?
What should give us pause is midlife.
As my friends’ children become adults, we give them a rite of passage. Off they go to college, bags packed, to start to investigate their true passion, be it marine biology or business.
But when we hit this critical juncture of midlife, there is no rite of passage. Which is perhaps why so many men run off with young blondes in tiny convertibles. Or why so many women decide going back to the workforce is a good idea, as they struggle to find their value in a society where cocktail party conversation rarely moves beyond what we “do”.
We’ve generally worked our asses off up to this point—whether in a corner office or at home preparing our little birds to fly off into the world. Taking a breath to assess where we are would be great. And looking forward to what we want to do and who we want to be for our closing act? Priceless.
Except taking a breath is generally not encouraged by society at large.
I’m not saying we need a repeat of college’s four years—but give us a paid sabbatical and a sanctioned set of inspiring locales within which to take it. Picture midlife institutes all over the world, filled with people enjoying pushing the pause button. With guided review of where we’ve been, where we are and where we want to go before it’s too late. With peers, wiser because of their years, who can share experiences and reflect with us.
Some of us will be close to where we want to be. Others may realize that taking over Daddy’s law firm was a mistake. That being a chef calls to them. Or a minister. Or, although this stymies me, an accountant.
Why don’t we offer ourselves do-overs? Or just, additional opportunities to pursue a passion? Does deciding at 18 what we want to do with the rest of our lives sound wise? Not really.
These are random thoughts spurred on by yet another unexpected text regarding the poor health of someone my age who appeared to be just fine yesterday.
I finally have some wisdom to offer in midlife. Earned wisdom, not just whatever I may have been blessed with coming into this world. I want to use it. Share it. Expand it.
I guess I’m trying to figure out a way to incorporate a meaningful pause into my life when there is no sanctioned one allotted to me.
I realize my dilemma is not world hunger. It’s not peacekeeping. But maybe inherent in the solution to my challenge lies progress in the world at large.
If we could make it a movement, put pauses into lives around the world, imagine what that combined wisdom could create. Solve. Imagine. Build.
Some of my favorite words.