An article recently published on Oprah.com, “The New Midlife Crisis: Why (and How) It’s Hitting Gen X Women” has appeared on my Facebook feed about a dozen times in the last few days, linked to by a number of friends, former classmates, and childhood acquaintances who, like me, are Gen X women. Maybe you’ve seen the article, too? Maybe you’re also a Gen X woman like I am and had trouble getting through the article? For me, my trouble with it wasn’t that it didn’t sound familiar. It sounded very familiar. I’ve had similar conversations with many women in my social circle about our/their midlife crises. Single or coupled, with children or without, there are some common threads that weave through our lives: anxiety about career choices we’ve made and worrying about running out of time to change course; concern for our aging parents; worrying about our own retirement and whether/when we’ll be able to afford to stop working. But I have to admit, I don’t feel as… all-consumed by the anxiety as the women in the article — and as some of the acquaintances in my social media feed — seem.
For that, I will count myself very lucky. I have a comfortable life, I’m healthy, my husband and kids are healthy, and we are financially stable. But I wonder if luck is all there is to it. I think it’s important to acknowledge luck and privilege, but I also wonder if it’s a disservice to women of our generation to discount personal choices, the pressures we put on ourselves to live up to impossible expectations and to keep up with the Joneses, the paths we take to deal with the pressure, and the “grass is greener” effect.
There’s no question we have more choices than our mothers and grandmothers did, and with that often comes regret that we made the “wrong” choices or that choices we made when we were younger limit the options we have in our 40s. (I’m thinking specifically of putting off having kids, or putting off following certain dreams you thought there would be time for later but still, at 40-something, haven’t found the time for and don’t know now when you ever will.) But I will say that my friends who do not regularly talk about being consumed by anxiety and regret aren’t necessarily the luckiest or the most affluent or the ones for whom life has turned out the way they imagined or wanted. They simply tend to have a different perspective — and, frankly, are the ones who celebrate and appreciate the little things (rather than focus so much on the larger things). Maybe that’s oversimplifying it, I don’t know. They also tend to be the people who accept what they can’t change and work to change the things they can.
Anyway, it’s a long, meaty article with lots of arguments and subtopics in it (insomnia! debt! being the product of latchkey childhoods! and the suggestion that perimenopause can start in one’s early 40s and last over a decade, what the fuck). I’m curious what your thoughts are if you’ve read it. Did you relate to it? Do you feel in the midst of a midlife crisis? Are you from a different generation and think Gen X women are just trying to recreate the wheel and that all midlife crises are equal? Do you think the internet — specifically, “aspirational” blogs and social media — contribute to feelings of inadequacy and feeling crappy about where you are in life (in comparison to others your age)? Discuss…