Mary Oliver’s words are like a touchstone for me and now, perhaps for you. Are you living in sync with who and how you want to be in the world? Do you ever wonder if it’s too late to change some of the choices you made years ago?
Contrary to what our culture tells you, if you are between about 45 and 65, you’re not in a stagnant part of life and you are not beginning a downhill slog towards your demise. You are likely to be deep into your work and have family and community commitments. You are better at navigating life’s ups and downs, plus you know who and what you really care about — family, friends, health, and giving back. Armed with decades of expertise and experience, you are ready to own life’s lessons and live!
What’s Your Story?
If this positivity and potential sounds foreign to you it’s most likely because you’ve been living according to an antiquated narrative that says age defines what you can and can’t do, and that your life story is written into only three major chapters. The first chapter, youth, represents growth and education; the second chapter represents work and family. This third chapter is largely about leisure and decline. Sound appealing? No way.
That way of life may have made sense a century ago when life expectancy hovered around 50 but not today when some of the coolest folks are inching towards 80. The only thing that old story is telling us is that we are suffering from a cultural lag between old notions and our new reality.
Your Life as a Bestseller
These years we’ve added to our lives show up as vibrant years in the middle — not the end of life. It’s time to re-write or at least to edit the story of your life, complete with new chapters that tell your version of a life well lived. You are no longer defined by the number on your license but rather, the life stage you are in. The potential for new chapters in midlife are being lived out in all kinds of exciting ways.
My friend Lori is a great example. After raising three children with her husband and doing part time bookkeeping work during those years, she decided to go back to nursing school in her mid-50s. She is now happily and gainfully employed in a new career. The time was only right once her child-raising “stage” was complete. I love to see her Facebook posts with twenty- something classmates; she is always right in the mix. Terry’s story is just as compelling. Around the age of 50 Terry decided to leave a career in finance that left him depleted. He took a leap of faith and shifted to working his way up in the airline industry. In the past 10 years alone as he has moved twice, remarried once and now owns an airline dealership. How many new chapters did he write in midlife? I’ve lost count!
Midlife has become such an important inflection point in our lives that it’s earned it’s own place as a life stage — Middlescence. My goal, as a coach and author, is to empower you to make your middlescence a stage of insight, growth, prosperity, joy, health and generosity. Like adolescence when a child begins to evaluate and see herself as separate from others, you have an opportunity and inner calling to re-evaluate choices you’ve made. You get to figure out who and how you want to be when you grow up — perhaps for the second time!
Middlescent Movers and Shakers
Culturally, we tend to look at celebrities and how they seem to be leading a trend. Consider that actors Viola Davis, Helen Mirren and Denzel Washington are at the peak of their careers and aren’t slowing down.
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt have rolled into middlescence, all at the height of their stardom. Just this week, People magazine named Julia Roberts “The World’s Most Beautiful Woman” — for the fifth time — at age 49. We are discovering that these middle years have come to represent a new life stage and are figuring out how to make them our best.
Three Truths About Life’s Newest Stage
We can make Middlescence life’s most treasured stage and here is why:
· We are happier! And that happiness continues to grow. Studies show that beginning around the age of 46 our happiness starts to increase and continues to rise as we age.
· The years we’ve added are in the middle, not the end of life. This new longevity is creating opportunities we are just figuring out what to do with.
· We’ve cracked the code to make this the best stage yet! As a coach for adults, midlife and better, I have developed tools to help you get the most out of this stage. And I’m sharing many of them for free. We are at an inflection point of personal evaluation and desire for more meaning in our lives. Much like an entrepreneur approaches a new concept, we are experiencing challenges and need to creatively address them. I’ll be sharing how to do just that in my upcoming posts, so stay tuned!
I’m thrilled to be a part of Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global. Part of what makes this platform special is that it goes beyond information and entertainment to action. My work as a coach is designed to do just that: inform you about the potential and reality of middlescence; help you identify how to find meaning in your life; and make the kind of impact you want — at home, at work, in your community and more.
Check out The Middlescence Factor and join the movement! I would love to hear from you there! Have you made a career change or gone back to school like Lori? What have you decided to be when you “grow up”? What do you find most exciting about this next stage of life? Join me and let’s talk!
Barbara Waxman is a gerontologist, leadership coach, speaker and author whose insights are illuminating a crucial stage in our personal and professional lives — Middlescence. On her Facebook page and website, Barbara inspires clients and audiences with insights and practical ideas they can put to work for themselves, their families, workplaces and the world.
Originally published at medium.com