Vowing not to be those parents who hang onto the family farm with the hope that the children return to continue the tradition, my husband and I put our farm up for sale after our girls were out of college and told us they had no interest in farming. The property sold in five days. Stunned, my husband and I stared at one another and said at the same time, “Now what do we do?”
I believe that question was the beginning of a premature midlife crisis. It led to a year of colossal upheaval. The disruption in our life, however, bashed the typical definition of midlife crisis referred to by the public.
Boston psychologist, Lynn Margolies, PhD, wrote, “A sure sign you may be in a midlife crisis is if you are feeling trapped and very tempted to act out in ways that will blow up your life.” Margolies likened this phenomenon to a rebellious teenager and warned against jolting loved ones or pursuing unrealistic, hurtful goals.
A midlife crisis can be boiled down to a person discovering or rediscovering their identity and self-confidence.
Discovery is not a bad thing when taken by the horns and wrangled to our benefit rather than bane. Four fundamentals to motivating a positive crisis comes to mind when recalling my midlife predicament:
Family can be separated from the job. Family and farming were my identity or so I believed. We raised our children on the farm and fostered children, all of whom thrived, surrounded by nature, animals, and fresh fruits and vegetables. When the day came in which welled up inside me a storm infused wave of desire to escape the farm, I was able to see that I could escape the farm without leaving family.
Realistic goals are priority. My husband and I were unable to retire, financially and mentally. We needed to remember when making decisions that we were unemployed empty-nesters who needed to be practical. To start a new career meant starting at the bottom.
Stuff had to go, but not good memories. With no children in the house, there were less material demands. We also no longer needed a lot of the stuff we had. Getting rid of stuff made it easier to start at the bottom. Because my good memories are not attached to the stuff, I still have them today. This freedom made it easier to discover. It also made it easier to move across the United States, for the fun of it.
Take on a challenge. We decided to move to a whole different community. Mapping out a strategy, we met fears head on and it left me with a feeling of accomplishment. Piling it on, my husband said to me, “Let’s ride our motorcycles from Washington State to New York.” My brain could barely process his comment, but it did sound motivating. I agreed only to almost back out at the last minute. The idea of riding my motorcycle 3,000 miles was daunting, until I realized if I only made it to Montana, fine, I’ll sell the bike and fly in an airplane the rest of the way.
The motorcycle trip across America is indelibly marked in my mental databank as the best two-weeks in the history of trips and vacations. We rode Highway 2, a northern route that took us through Glacier National Park, over the Bitterroot Mountains where Lewis and Clark traversed 200 years previous, on foot.
I learned that I could ride in rain, wind, over snowy roads, and under blasted hot sunshine. I spent $9 to fill my gas tank at the station, while a camper owner at the nearby gas pump spent $232 to fill his tank.
I watched terrain change from desert to woodland. I felt a spiritual parallel as I changed from wishy-washy to “I can do this.” We rode into our new upstate New York hometown on our 25th wedding anniversary. We’ll be celebrating our thirty-third anniversary in a few weeks.