Turning 36 means one thing - getting closer to my 40s. I read somewhere that midlife crisis occurs when a person is between the age of 35 to 55 years and that middle age begins in our 30s. I'm right within the range.
Getting older brings confusion and anxiety but there are ways to help ourselves (and others) while we go through this stage.
I've been thinking a lot about how satisfied I was with my life when I was younger against and how I feel these days. There's a big contrast between these two periods and this is what I came up with.
Perks of being old
When you're older, you're liberated from a lot of social norms. You have your own money (if you have a steady source of income) and decide what you want to do with it. You also have authority over your present and most of the time, your future. Last, the certainty of death looms over.
Downsides of being old
The perks come with responsibilities and expectation. Being free from social norms means you are expected to act with decency, dignity and respect for people around you.
Earning money doesn't mean it's wise to spend it all on senseless fun. There are family, government, community and personal obligations that require money. Unfortunately some of those come every month.
When you have power over your own decisions, you are expected to know and make the best possible decisions for yourself and the people around you.
When it seems death is coming closer, there's fear of leaving loved ones behind and not having enough time to accomplish what we are set out to do.
It gets real when there's an imbalance between the perks and the downsides. Here are a few examples:
1. When you decide to be child-free but your family expects you to enter into motherhood.
2. When you earn more than enough money but have to spend it to support the education of your siblings, instead of saving it.
3. When you want to leave your horrible job but you can't because you need to send your children to school.
4. When life seems too short, but also, events we've been waiting for - like starting a new job - is taking too long.
I'm always in a state of imbalance between these two. While I love being older, there are days when I miss the simplicity of youth. But there are ways to tame (not entirely resolve) this imbalance with the following:
1. Be aware of the crisis and recognize that it's there.
I am not saving enough money monthly so I might as well start next pay day.
2. Organize and identify the smallest step towards unlocking or resolving the crisis.
Next pay day, I will set aside 5% of my income into a new savings account. The next step is to open a new savings account and set an auto-transfer action each month.
3. Ask for help.
Turn to experts, read books, talk to reliable and credible friends and family. There's never a shortage of resources and help around as long as you're willing to find and receive it.
I think I need help with budgeting my monthly salary. As the one handling household expenses, you can probably help me with it. Do you have any suggestions for me?
4. Be familiar.
In Stoicism, death is seen as part of the natural order of life, and not something to fear. We become familiar with things we are scared of when we are able to 'stare at it in the eye' and deal with it often. Thankfully, death does not come to us often, but when we keep the idea of death closer, it becomes part of everyday life.
I won't be alive forever. I might as well keep myself as healthy as possible so I can enjoy life more while I'm here.
The most important step to take
Here's what I read from this article by Dr. Alicia Ines Arbaje:
Reframe what it means to get older. Instead of lamenting what you never did, or what you’ve lost, think about this time as a chance to take on new challenges and embrace life in a new way.
At 36, I can say age is just a number. Even if there's no way to know, you and I can make the next 30 years more colorful than the first.
Getting older is a marker of events that are now part of the past and of things to come.