Earlier this week, I was standing at the counter of Panera making small talk with the lady behind the register. The place was pretty empty, so she wasn’t in a rush to take my order. We started laughing about our favorite sitcoms. Both of us made the same Seinfeld reference about coffee and started laughing hysterically. And then it happened.
The girl at the next register stared at us in confusion. She couldn’t have been more than twenty years old. “What are you two talking about?”
“It’s from Seinfeld,” I responded with a smile. Kramer’s antics with his hot coffee and his lawyer’s rant about using a balm were fresh in my mind.
The girl still looked confused for a few moments. And then I saw the click of recognition. “Oh, yeah, I remember that show,” she exclaimed. “My PARENTS used to watch it all the time.”
The older lady and I looked at each other. She shook her head in mock dismay, while I tried to shake off the horrifying realization. I looked at the twenty-something girl on my right, and then turned back to the sixty-something lady behind the register in front of me. I was standing between where I had been and where I was going. And I had more in common with where I was going.
When did this happen? When did I hit middle age? I always pictured middle age as a balding man who drives around in a red sports car, wears absurdly flashy clothing, and tries to pick up indecently young women in bars. I did NOT picture it as a stay-at-home mother who drives a minivan, wears “slobby chic” clothing from Target, and tries to pick up small, shrieking children without getting kicked in the face.
But the truth is that I’m thinking of dyeing my hair to cover my gray hairs instead of dyeing it just for fun. I’m plunking money down on department store makeup counters, hoping to find some magic elixir that eliminates the dark circles under my eyes. I’m friends with people who are suddenly signing up for marathons or weight loss programs. I’m listening to Sirius 90’s on 9, quoting ’90’s sitcoms, and ranting about how terrible music is today to anyone who will listen. I’m hearing about people I once worked with who are getting sick or dying.
I’m doing things with a certain urgency that wasn’t there before. Because if I’m the hero of my journey, then I’m approaching the midpoint of my story. According to Joseph Campbell and the storytelling pattern he called “The Hero’s Journey,” the midpoint of any story is a pivotal turning point for the protagonist. The hero stops just reacting to obstacles and starts behaving proactively.
Do I wish I could go back in time? Maybe back to the ’90’s? Other than the dance music, my lighter weight, and my ability to breakdance, I can honestly say no. I like where I am. I like finally having the courage to chase my dreams. My heart has grown in its capacity for love and compassion. I couldn’t have done this in my twenties.
I’m forty-one years old and my time is now. Not someday. Now. It’s time to stop waiting for things to happen and finally take my life into my own hands. Maybe that’s what I’m doing with this blog. Some people jog. I write. So, welcome to my midlife crisis! Enjoy the ride!