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Between a Quarter and Mid-Life Crisis

I have seem to find myself in a bit of a life crisis. I am frankly, getting too old for the quarter-life crisis, that state of mind upon entering the adult world where you ask yourself, “What the hell am I doing here?” A condition made famous by the movies Garden State, Lost in Translation and 500 Days of Summer and John Mayer’s song, Why Georgia. The time when the lost, aimless, lonely, scared feelings crawl up your nervous system through your spine and take up residence in your brain and sit there while you go about your mundane job and spin unending thoughts about your purpose in life and how you should probably find it soon. Sufferers of this crisis can be found listening to music for hours on end, both of the epic Sigur Ros type and the mellow Belle and Sebastian type, scribbling poetry in your journal and researching the cost of living in London while at your boring admin job. At least that’s what a quarter-life crisis looked like for me.

Still, I feel like I’m not quite old enough for the mid-life crisis, which I think for both men and women is an attempt to stuff the sand back into the top of the hourglass and recapture a little of their youth. I can’t speak to this state of mind, I can only go by the images in popular culture and most of those tend to focus on men. The standard running gag of a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis involves a red sports car, possible hair plugs and trying to pick up younger women. It’s an image that, while ridiculed and derided, is still indulged and played to comedic value. The image of a woman going through the same life crisis is mixed with the worst stereotypes of a Real Housewife and Mrs. Robinson.

So the place that I find myself is slipping out of the throes of the quarter-life crisis, having finally come to a place where I know what I want (at least career wise) and have come to more of a peace about who I am and my particular personality quirks (lone wolf, reserved, pretty awkward and unabashedly nerdy). But with getting older, I am beginning to recognize the drive of some women to stop the march of time across their face because with getting older, there comes a new set a slurs and insults society throws at you. To be an older woman and still express yourself sexually is to be labeled a cougar, an object of derision. Mrs. Robinson has always been a convenient punchline. To be single after a certain age is to be labeled a spinster or cat lady, an object of pity. If we are to age, we are to age gracefully or face comments on how old you look. One friend, after watching the movie Bad Teacher, remarked, “That Cameron Diaz has not aged well.” It is best to look young for your age. Most of the comments on message boards regarding Lindsey Lohan’s Saturday Night Live appearance focused as much on how old she looked as on the performance itself. Even being relatively young doesn’t afford much charity.

Now, as I look at myself in the mirror, I find myself focusing on the two lines forming between my eyebrows from too much squinting and the downward lines around my mouth from my unfortunate decision to start smoking a few years ago. I’ve always looked years younger than my age, but that advantage is slowly disappearing and I find myself mourning it. I notice the male gaze slide by to those who are younger. I’m beginning to understand the drive of some women to get Botox injections and plastic surgery. The irony of this is that women must look naturally young. To look like you’ve had even a bit of cosmetic help leaves a woman vulnerable to a new set of verbal slings and arrows. There seems to be no break to be had.

So I focus now on quieting the last of the internal demons and doubts I brought with me from my twenties. I make my plans and focus on my goals. I Skype with my therapist from back home on ways to quiet the insecurities raging in my head, both the mental and the physical. I try to eat healthy and exercise more because it does make me actually feel better. I accept that society and the media throw all kinds of restrictions on women usually begin with the word “too.” A woman is too fat, too ugly, too old and on and on. So I go on anyway and hope to diffuse the crisis before it starts.

 

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

6 replies on “Between a Quarter and Mid-Life Crisis”

I’ll be 39 this year. The thought that I’m approaching 40 fazes me way more than it should. Not so much in a cosmetic way (although, yeah, I’m not fond of that 11 between my eyebrows, nor the yearly increase in silver hairs), but because I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I “should” have by now. It feels like if my career’s not established by now (and it’s not), it never will be. I haven’t had children, and biological clock and all that. I feel like I’m running about 5-10 years behind, and it’s starting to freak me out.

firstly,

The time when the lost, aimless, lonely, scared feelings crawl up your nervous system through your spine and take up residence in your brain and sit there while you go about your mundane job and spin unending thoughts about your purpose in life and how you should probably find it soon. Sufferers of this crisis can be found listening to music for hours on end, both of the epic Sigur Ros type and the mellow Belle and Sebastian type, scribbling poetry in your journal and researching the cost of living in London while at your boring admin job.

that is my life.

secondly, i hate how much pressure there is to keep looking young forever.  it is so frustrating, because it feels like there is this strict time limit on how good you look (to society).  it’s very difficult to escape the criticism because it’s everywhere.

 

I feel you. I too have struggled with the things you describe. “Aging gracefully” is a phrase that drives me insane. What does it mean?! Really? When society & the media use the term they are most certainly never talking about a woman who has actually accepted, with grace, the ravages of time but instead they speak of women who have fought tooth & toenail with every cosmetic procedure in their arsenal to hold on to youth. I am guilty and I share your crisis. When is it ok to embrace getting older & still love ourselves

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