Is it just me? How often have I asked myself that question? Often enough.
The answer? Well no. Almost certainly not.
It’s probably you too, and him, and her, and all of us as we go through this exploration that is mid-life.
My mid-life exploration started with a feeling. I was miserable. I’d always dreamed of getting married, having a couple of children, living a fairly simple life. Now, at the age of forty, I was single, childless, and had the sort of job which ensured I had anything but a simple life.
I can’t recall how I came across Barefoot Doctor’s (aka Stephen Russell) book, “Manifesto. How to get what you want without trying”, but it came at just the right time. Facing into the fact that somehow, I had a lot of things I didn’t really want in my life and not enough of the things I really desired, this book was perfect.
My exploration since then has been peppered with reading, boot camps, learning to paint, write and draw, seminars, online dating, redundancy, retreats, academic learning, yoga, career change, travel.
And conversations. Lots of conversations, with other people going through similar explorations.
I discovered this is the sort of exploration best done with others. I discovered it wasn’t “just me” by talking, listening, sharing, laughing (a lot) and sometimes crying with others.
It’s a weird time of life. It’s rarely a crisis, although it can be. No, it’s a transition. In the same way that we go through adolescence, the transition from childhood to adulthood, we go through mid-life, which is the transition from younger to older adulthood. There’s no playbook. We make it up as we go along, improvising, doing the best we can, often alone and feeling isolated, because we are sure we are the only ones feeling so disorientated, dissatisfied, lost.
I’ve discovered there is no specific age for it to start or end, and that it is probably a transition that takes years rather than weeks or months. I know people in their thirties and sixties, as well as in between, asking themselves questions and wondering what’s next.
Whilst I’ve enjoyed much of my exploration, challenging though it has been at times, I wish there had been somewhere to go to process exactly what I was going through with others. It wasn’t therapy I needed, just a place to ask, “Is it just me?” and to hear the answers. A place where I could explore with others who “get it”, and who are going through the same thing.
I never found anywhere, so my exploration has been a patchwork quilt of experiences.
My life now is different. I have found love, in my work and with a partner. My life is simpler. I have amazing friends and feel part of some lovely communities. I have plans and am happy and optimistic about the future.
I am lucky. And I have worked really hard to get that lucky.
I want to offer a simpler path to others and as part of the work I love, I’m running “The Art of Emergence, a mid-life exploration”, with the wonderful John Wenger on Friday 6th October in London.
If you or anyone you know might want to explore this weird time of life, discovering that no, it’s not just you, we’d love you to join us. We think it’s going to be pretty awesome.