Gen X midlife crisis

I was reading this article about what the Gen X midlife crisis looks like for women. A bunch of my friends have shared it on Facebook and it really resonated with me. It’s really long and not all of it applies to me, but this does:

“The message Gen X women got was ‘You can have it all.’ … That came with better blueprints and also bigger expectations,” says Deborah Luepnitz, PhD, a psychotherapist in Philadelphia, a boomer and author of Schopenhauer’s Porcupines. “In midlife, what I see in my Gen X patients is total exhaustion. That’s what brings them to treatment. They feel guilty for complaining because it’s wonderful to have had choices that our mothers didn’t have, but choices don’t make life easier. Possibilities create pressure.”

Another point in the article I related to a lot: the sense that I’m caught in limbo, wanting to do more with my life but realizing I may not get to. I don’t miss my youth in most ways and would not say I’m necessarily having any kind of typical midlife crisis.

But it’s weird that most of my bosses are now 15 years younger than me, if not more. At the last couple of jobs I had, the vast majority of my coworkers could have been my literal children had I gotten pregnant in high school. That’s sobering. It makes me feel old and uninteresting and useless. And it can’t help but make you realize that the years you were out of the full-time workforce did count and you can’t get them back.

I’m really hopeful that I’ll be able to successfully make a career change after going to grad school. I hope that I won’t be too old to get started. From what I’ve seen, the counseling/social work field is more amenable to late bloomers such as myself.

The writing and marketing field is definitely not. I found that out the hard way. I was less appealing to employers than new grads who previously had no paid writing experience. (I looked up some of the people who beat me out on LinkedIn by searching job titles, company names, and hire dates.) Marketing, in particular, wants people who are themselves in the most desirable 18-35 age bracket, on the younger end of that range if possible.

In that environment, I never once forgot that I was old. And my coworker went out of her way to point out that my years of experience were irrelevant. It’s hard not to be shaken up by that. It rocked my confidence quite a bit.

On the other hand, though, things aren’t as bad for me as for many of the people in the article. My marriage is on solid footing after we went through a rocky time of truth-telling a couple years ago. My kids are on that verge of adulthood or newly into it. I’m close to almost being free to devote more time and energy to a career of my own. I won’t likely have much responsibility for caring for my parents in the coming years due to geographical distance. Unfortunately, that duty will likely fall on my sister since she still lives near them, unless my parents decide to move to where I am (which they’ve never mentioned doing.)

At the same time, it’s hard to have much hope about my financial future. I spent way too many of my prime earning years in an area of Michigan with few opportunities. Fortunately, I live in a better area in that regard now. But I see it as very unlikely that my elderly years (should I live that long) will look anything like my parents’ or especially not my grandparents’. We screwed ourselves big time by owning a house in Michigan and are still trying to bounce back from that.

Then again, I think only those who had reasonably high salaries and made smart investments starting in their 20s and 30s have any hope of the RVing-across-the-country type of retirement our grandparents had. Even that may be precarious since very few employers offer health insurance to retirees anymore like they did to our grandparents. Health care costs and lack of pensions mean that retirement looks considerably different for everyone after the boomers.

Long story short: I’m not young anymore. I am at least a little grateful for being alive most days because my health reminds me not to take life for granted. But right now I’m really fighting against the thought that my best years are behind me. I didn’t do the right things. Some of those “right things” were within my control; quite a few weren’t.

It’s hard to shake this vague sense of dissatisfaction that I went hopelessly wrong somewhere and it’s now unfixable. I can’t pretend like I’m still in my twenties anymore. So that means I have to somehow make peace with the shadow of the sun passing over me, its rays now shining on a younger generation.

It feels like being forgotten. And even though I had that time being young, it still feels like it went too quickly.

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