On the Hill

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My friends will tell you that I complained about “being old” way before I actually “got old.” Before I turned 40, I joked that when I did I expected the sky to open up and a fantastic beam of light would hit me and imbue me with some “universal knowledge.”

No light and sometimes I even feel dumber.

My 40th birthday had been like any other birthday after 30. It was purposefully low key. I went to work. My wife and my youngest came to join me for lunch. There was a food festival so we were joined by my coworkers. The day did not pass without notice, but it was not the celebration I would have had when I was 25 (the other point in my life when I expected the sky to open up).

At 40, I did not want a celebration. I was more focused on what I would like to do at 40 rather then celebrating just getting there. The sky did not open up but things do feel different. I don’t know how they are different, but they are – at least, they feel as if they are.

Is it “mid-life crisis”? The thought had occurred to me. I have been more aggressively pursuing interests that I procrastinated about. Things I used to do but stopped because I just didn’t have the time (or at least I told myself I didn’t have the time).

According to Wikipedia, midlife crisis is

the notion, popular in certain cultures, that many middle-aged people go through a period of dramatic self doubt brought on by the realization that their life is half over and they haven’t accomplished what they once wanted to. Supporters believe that there are other triggers, such as aging in general, menopause, or children leaving home. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in career, marriage or romantic relationship, and other core aspects of day to day life.

It goes on to say that research since the 1980s has rejected the existance of midlife crisis. University studies from institutions like Harvard and Hope confirm the general consensus by the psychological community that midlife crisis does not exist.

Wikipedia lists several symptoms of midlife crisis. These symptoms include “conspicuous consumption” and “paying special attention to physical appearance.” I have been more concerned about the latter lately. And I do contribute it partially to my turning 40. But I rationalize it as I am physically getting older. My metabolism is slowing. Increased concern about my physical appearance is just a part of getting older.

Under “conspicuous consumption,” Wikipedia includes getting a tattoo. I have several but have been thinking of getting another. However, I don’t attribute this to turning 40. I have been thinking about getting another tattoo and cleaning up some of my other tattoos for a while. I just haven’t found an opportunity to yet.

I like Dr. Gene Cohen’s view on the matter. In his 2006 Newsweek article, ” The Myth of MidLife Crisis,” (Cohen, Newsweek, January 16, 2006), he categorized aging into four overlapping 20-year periods:

  1. 40 to 65: a midlife re-evaluation during which we set new goals and priorities
  2. 55 to 75: a liberation phase that involves shedding past inhibitions to express ourselves more freely
  3. 65 to 85: a summing-up phase when we begin to review our lives and concentrate on giving back
  4. 75 and beyond: an encore phase that involves finding affirmation and fellowship in the face of adversity and loss.

Dr. Cohen makes a particularly poignant observation for educators when he cites cognitive development psychologists, Piaget and Erikson wrongly conclude that learning slows or stops after adolescence.

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