a Midlife Crisis
March 24, 2020
1. First you have a need. Mine was to become a psychologist.
2. Then you repress the need. You’re probably used to repressing needs, so you barely even know what it feels like to have one, let alone get it met. You rationalize that needs are selfish and nods of approval from a semi-fat middle manager will compensate for your inability to live the life you want.
3. What represses the need? Your anxiety, the unconscious symptoms of which present as 95 percent of the “fun” 20-somethings—and now 30-somethings—have.
4. Spotify recommends Kansas and a few days later you’re hit with the realization there’s no point in hiding from yourself anymore. Protection reveals itself to be the illusory inhibitor that it is. Grief is the initiation that propels you to the next stage of adult development.
It’s the man in his 40s who leaves his family, buys a convertible, and then tries to pick up girls in a painfully outdated fashion. When he was 19, he didn’t do these things. He was too afraid. This is what he’ll tell himself, if he’s honest. If he lies to himself, like most men do, he says he didn’t have any time, that he was too busy building his career. He’ll end up with a new wife, one that is curiously similar to his previous one. He wasn’t protesting where he was so much as what he was.
It’s the awkwardly aging woman living the Eat, Pray, Love fantasy. Guess what she never did. You know it. We make like that dog in the meme and tell ourselves “this is fine” for such a long time it becomes habit. We don’t even know what we feel anymore until our burgeoning crow’s feet offer a terrible glimpse of the truth. Blame the patriarchy if you cannot face your anxiety, but just because everybody believes it doesn’t make it any less of a delusional projection.
The pattern is universal because these crises are deeply embedded in our psyche. The neurosis of this psychological aeon is the repression of our own needs for the sake of what we think others want us to do. I don’t know you, but this is the crux of your emotional issue. It can manifest in a myriad of ways, but that’s the core. You’re afraid of your own anger—you’re afraid of existing because if you were to exist, other people won’t like you. And you’re right, they won’t like you.
The crisis doesn’t contain itself to midlife, though. We feel it at midlife because of marination, but it’s happening every day, no matter your age. Probably the most damaging banality we hear is there’s plenty of time—for marriage, family, and career. But as the crisis reminds us, there isn’t any time. Either you do it now or not at all. Either die today or never. The only problem with the midlife crisis is we don’t have enough of them.