Am I Having a Midlife Crisis?
Updated: Feb 12, 2020
For today’s post, I thought I’d explore the idea of the ‘midlife crisis’… by telling you about mine!
This also gives me an opportunity to tell you a little bit about myself. I live in London, where I moved to from my home town of Wigan back in 2014. I moved here because a job opportunity arose within the company I was then working for, and also because it seemed that living in the capital city was simply the most logical thing to do: there are more job opportunities, more bands to see, better bars and restaurants, a chance to be part of Britain’s beating heart rather than floating around in some peripheral organ. My then partner was also looking to change careers, and had an opportunity to study here – so the move seemed timely, serendipitous even.
At that time I was 31 years old – still young by most measuring sticks, although the sort of young that comes with a hovering dread about the prospect of having to grow up soon, to start having children, to take up gardening, to stop playing video games and drinking quite so much. With that in mind, we decided to invest in property for the first time, and bought a teeny house in Walthamstow. Having worked in finance for 14 years by that point, I seemed set on a trajectory that would lead to perhaps a job as a Finance Director, marriage, children; a busy, hassled, but hopefully fulfilling, existence: a ‘normal’ life.
Five years later and the landscape of my life feels like an earthquake has ripped through it. My relationship ended (amicably, but finally), I have three published books with a fourth on the way very soon, and I have become an avid runner. Having survived a period of depression (a story for another blog post) I rent a flat in central London, and am working as a part-time finance contractor just three days per week; the other two I spend working on writing projects (like this blog!)
In the next few months I will finish my current finance engagement, and for the first time since I was 17 years old (when I foolishly dropped out of college and plunged into an accountancy career due mainly to financial necessity) this means I can actually afford to take a few months off work, to figure out what on earth I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I feel like I’m facing a crossroads, or more accurately a T-junction: do I persevere with a well-paid career that I hate, writing on the side with limited success, or do I risk financial insecurity by embracing the life of a full-time writer?
The other question that occurs is, at 36 years of age – is this just my midlife crisis?
My savings will buy me maybe six months at most before a steady income stream is required, which my existing book sales do not currently provide. There may be another windfall next year when my ex-partner and I sell our house, so realistically there is perhaps a year in which I could choose to invest every penny of my remaining assets into getting the writing career off the ground. But surelythe most sensible thing to do is to simply bank these savings as security, perhaps a deposit for a future home, and continue to live in London, working in interim finance roles while trying to do as much writing as possible?
I do not have children, or any other dependents, so I am fortunate enough to be able to make this decision without worrying about its impact on others. But that is not quite true, of course; if all goes horribly wrong and I bankrupt myself pursuing an impossible dream, people – like my loving family and my extremely patient girlfriend – will undoubtedly be affected, if only by watching my quality of life and mental health deteriorate. But is this the sort of negative, fearful thinking that binds people to jobs they hate, lashes them to a life of duty and obligation instead of fulfilment and joy?
A big decision awaits me, and the more I think about it, the more excited I feel by the prospect of making the change, of switching careers and trying something new. The old cliché seems to resonate as I write this post: I want to look back and regret trying, rather than looking back and regretting not trying.
The phrase ‘midlife crisis’ suggests a fleeting bout of foolishness, a passing affliction that comes to everyone as they reach the halfway of their life (although fingers crossed I can manage a better total than 72 years… so maybe this is just a thirdlife crisis??) But perhaps that’s another reason that people rarely take the plunge and try something new: societal conditioning that tells us we are being silly, perhaps even selfish, if we give in to these compulsions.
So although I haven’t yet made up my mind what to do next, one thing I am sure of is that a ‘midlife crisis’ isn’t necessarily some temporary malaise, a storm to be ridden out; sometimes, if your brain is screaming at you to make a change, it’s time to listen. So if you’re having a midlife crisis of your own, please don’t just plough on and ignore it – it might be time for a big change in your life, too.
As the frontman of one of my favourite bands, Modest Mouse, once sang (well, ranted): ‘My thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth’.
It’s going to be an interesting year…
Until next time,