I used to think the idea of a midlife crisis was absurd. Why, I wondered, did so many people hit a certain age and then suddenly blow up their carefully crafted lives?
Now that I’m in my late forties, I don’t find the idea of a midlife crisis absurd at all.
I recently encountered Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. For those of us between the ages of 40 and 64, Erikson termed our developmental stage “generativity vs. stagnation.”
To summarize, people in this age range are focused on leaving a mark on the world in some way. We strive for accomplishment and want to create something that will make the world a better place. If we feel we lack those accomplishments, we may describe ourselves as stagnant and disconnected.
For those who are feeling stagnant, this drive can lead to making adjustments that will lead to greater fulfillment. But if people feel trapped and feel change isn’t possible, they may become bitter.
Damned if that doesn’t sound familiar.
Perhaps it’s because we just started a new year, and I hear so many people talking about New Year’s resolutions, decluttering their homes, or making other changes. I might also be hyperaware of feelings of stagnation because I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks.
Or, it could simply be because I haven’t gotten my writing career where I want it to be. Yet.
It’s easy for writers to fall into a trap of comparing our work to others and feeling that we’ve fallen short. This week, Nancy Johnson talked about writer envy over on the WriterUnboxed blog. A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, writers like N.K. Jemisin and John Scalzi talked about the idea of it being “too late” to write a book.
We all battle self-doubt, envy, and feelings of inadequacy. We all wonder if we’ve done enough. What I’m trying to tell myself is that it’s not too late to make a change. At times, I’ve had to alter my path because the road I’d chosen wasn’t working out. I can do it again.
Time to cast off my fears and head for the margins where there be dragons. I’ve always kind of wanted to see a dragon, after all.
Care to join me?