Mid-life without the crisis

I hate sports analogies.


In fact, I'm not much of a stereotypical sports guy (though I do admit to one fanatical loyalty). But I suppose I can say the analogy is not actually mine.


I was listening to the audiobook version of Tom Peter's Little Big Things, when at one point Mr. Peters (also with his own disclaimer detesting sports analogies) noted that, at age 67, he is "playing in the second half." He added, with his usual flair for pointed proof that this was certainly true, unless he managed to live to age 134.


Over the following weeks, as I discussed with friends old and new some of my plans and ideas about the particular transition in my life at this particular time, I found myself using this phrase - "playing in the second half" - more and more to describe why I thought it was about time I learned some of the things I have learned and made some of the key decisions I am making.


If you are either male and in what we commonly call the mid-life period, or even just familiar with the stereotype of the middle-aged american male, this won't sound at all odd. We've created a veritable cultural construct called mid-life crisis that encapsulates everything from questioning nearly every aspect of one's life to attempting to recapture one's youth through conspicuous consumption often associated with motorcycles or convertibles.


It could be argued (and nearly everyone in my life has asked me if this is true) that I am experiencing this mid-life crisis. But to be honest, it doesn't feel like a crisis. In fact, it feels more like just another point in my life where I am making some important choices (which is something I believe we all do every day). The only difference I can see between choices and decisions I am making this year are is that I believe that my choices are better informed and made with a greater understanding of myself and why they make sense for me.


Which led me to the question: Why is it a crisis?


I suppose it’s more of a life crisis than an actual crisis (I’m thinking of an earthquake, stock market collapse, or massive oil spill here), but I think the so-called mid-life crisis is characterized by re-evaluating your path in life based on your now-greater knowledge and understanding of yourself, your situation and your wants and needs.


It makes perfect sense to me that anyone who has reached the so-called second half (double your age; if it's unlikely you'll live that long, then you're in the second half) would have a far better understanding of themselves, their preferences and desires and what makes life interesting and fun for them. It follows that the life choices you might make at this point in your life would be better than ones made, say, at the beginning of your working career.


So let me take the analogy one step farther. The common wisdom (which I'll accept without argument for now) is that we start our adult lives by making some early decisions and then work hard to make those decisions work out well. Then we reach a point where that has run its course and we find ourselves needing to make some new or additional decisions. Let's call the initial decisions the game plan and the decades of working hard to make them happen, the first half.


Then we reach half-time - time to pause and make adjustments: sometimes it's a few minor tweaks, sometimes a completely new plan. But it's the point at which we know ourselves, how we play and what we need to do to win (or, in this analogy, be happy with our journey or outcome). Sound familiar?


So, again, I wonder: why is it a crisis? or is this social construct we've built really about making half-time adjustments?


There's certainly an urgency to the second half. You can make mistakes and end up behind in the first half, but in the second half you either make it work or go home disappointed. I have to assume that you, like me, want the second half to work out better than the first, no matter how well or poorly the first half worked out.


It seems that everyone I know has a sports idol named Joe. I think I'm going to follow the example of mine and make some brilliant - I hope - half-time adjustments and just skip the crisis.