“So you’re sort of going through a mid-life crisis too, huh?” I paused for a second, peering out over the picturesque Connecticut Valley from my perch atop Bear Mountain, and casually responded, “Yep, ahead of schedule too.” Sarah had gotten divorced four years earlier, spurring a “mid-life crisis” that took her to the summit of 5, count em 5, 14 thousand foot peaks in Colorado and the entire Connecticut section of the Appalachian Trail (53 miles) in a day. Quite literally, a monumental life-shift had taken her to heights she’d never seen before.
This epic chance encounter, happening so metaphorically on a rock overlooking the whole state, had me thinking the entire way down. The term “mid-life crisis” had been thrown my way more than a few times. Typically, I would dismiss it or lay out the painstaking logic that led me from accountant in Houston to teacher in Hartford. Similar to a modern-day scarlet letter, admitting to such a thing would be tantamount to agreeing that my recent life decisions were a result of immaturity or,even worse, insecurity. The sight of this fit, ambitious 30-something helped me realize that mid-life crisis is an overly broad term. How could a balding, disgruntled businessman buying red sports cars he can’t afford be equivalent to this woman fiercely dedicated to a mission of personal growth and exploration?
Mid-life crisis, used in the traditional sense, implies a rapid, unsustainable euphoric high followed by a slow and steady descent down to the lowlands from which you came. But what do we call a successful reassessment of what matters in life? A period of sustainable personal growth? The present use of the term, through the use of the undeniably negative word “crisis”, implies a lack of control and a negative outcome. “Mid-life opportunity” more positively and accurately frames the situation. It assumes neither success nor failure while still acknowledging an important juncture in an adult’s life. Shiny red sports cars and marital infidelity or an empowering burst of personal growth, the choice is ours.