According to Wikipedia, a midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self confidence that can occur in middle aged individuals (typically between around 40 to 65). This phenomenon is described as a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person’s growing age inevitable mortality and possibly a lack of accomplishment in life.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I read that description, I just think of the year 2020 especially when thinking about inevitable mortality. When you’re younger you think you have all the time in the world. You’re invincible. You think, “I can try that. Nothing is gonna happen to me.”
I used to be a smoker when I was younger. People tell you how it’s not good for you, it’s unhealthy and you’ll get lung cancer. All being completely true. But in your mind, you don’t believe it will happen to you. You’re good. You’re healthy. You can do what you want.
Thank God that none of that has happened to me yet and I continue to be healthy. I quit seven, maybe eight, years ago. But that feeling of being invincible starts to decrease as you get older. From what I understand from my friends who are parents, that really goes away once you have kids because you’re scared of leaving them alone.
All of a sudden, you find being more careful like driving slower. I guess that’s maybe my dad’s excuse for driving under the speed limit whenever I’m in the car. He’d say I was precious cargo but I just kept telling him he was going to kill us going 35 in a 60. While I haven’t had kids yet, I have started feeling like I’m not invincible anymore. Covid really hit home on that.
COVID – You’re glued to the news. You’re watching what’s going on. You’re quarantined and you’re not allowed to leave. I’ve never been in a pandemic situation like this. I don’t really remember SARS when that was happening, but it definitely wasn’t something like this where we weren’t allowed to leave our houses. So all year, the idea of mortality was ingrained in our brains and every single thing that we did like:
“Do I have to wipe down my groceries?”
“I want to visit family, but I can’t fly. Am I willing to drive all the way to Florida?”
“How far is it to drive to Seattle?”
“I want to have my wedding, but I can’t because I we have high risk people that would be there and that would be horrible.”
While we didn’t want to get COVID, it was less about concern we would get it as we were healthy. We may have some long-term side effects but we’d probably make it through. It was more about the concern of accidentally giving it to someone else. What if I’m asymptomatic and I accidentally passed it on and that person had a serious side effect? Whether it was someone I know or not, it would be our worst nightmare. So, you’re faced with the idea of mortality every single day. Still, actually, because we’re not through it.
Every day you had time to think about where you are in life and what you’re doing in your career. I’m very lucky. I’m where I want to be. I feel very fulfilled in my career. In my personal life, well – 2020 year was gonna be my year.
I was going to marry the love of my life on May 2nd. Everything was planned and it was exactly how we wanted it. It was better than I had ever dreamed, although I was never really one of those girls that had like this scrapbook and knew everything that I wanted. It was just it was perfect. I was doing my bridal fittings, The Bachelorette party, the bridal shower, the hair and makeup trials and the shopping for the shoes (one of my favorite parts). We were going to go on an amazing honeymoon to, ironically, New Zealand and Bora Bora. We were going to start the next chapter in our lives.
That didn’t happen and then we weren’t allowed to go into work. We are very social people, and we were secluded in quarantined. I live in downtown Chicago so our city takes it super seriously. Essentially walking to the grocery store could be a super spreader event because you run into like 100 people in between your door and the grocery store. So in Chicago, lockdowns are pretty intense and they last longer than a lot of parts of the country. They have to because we come in contact with so many people all the time. So we’re stuck inside and could only watch so much Netflix. So you start having a lot of time to think, maybe too much time.
Work was really slow for me because my main client is in the travel and tourism segment. I kept worrying about losing my job like so many people have during this pandemic. I kept calling my boss and asking her what I could do. Could I take on another account? Can I help on that project? Just call me Miss Helpful in 2020 and don’t fire me. I even asked her a couple of times to let me know if I was on the chopping black because I could start looking at other avenues. I was really a stressball over here. It really made me start thinking about what truly made me happy because there are so many stresses right now. I needed to find those outlets of self-care.
I think that’s a positive to come out of 2020, one of the benefits. Americans have always been known as workaholics. Our whole life is work. I’ve never truly been like that. I had a job that was like that which is why after 10 years I left, probably one of the best decisions that I’ve made. I am more of a of a work-life balance person. I will work hard. I’ll do my absolute best. I’ll go above and beyond. But I also need the time off. Our whole lives revolve around our jobs and we don’t really take the time to think about what makes us happy. What calms us down?
Those outlets that I did have in the past like hot yoga class were closed. My pilates class? Closed. Hanging out with friends, having a drink and dinner? Not available. All of those outlets that I turned to in the past were no longer there. If a midlife crisis is really about thinking about your life and potential mortality and getting older – then I would say that would be the title of 2020.
But the midlife crisis looks different for men versus women. Yes, I’ve read Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus years ago and I remember they are different in a lot of ways. But in terms of a midlife crisis, I was surprised to learn their experiences were so different. Apparently, men feel trapped in their current lifestyle. That’s usually why they start acting out and doing things that help refill their youth or wish they could have done hence buying the Corvette or leaving their wife to go date a 20 something. I actually read this really interesting article where they were talking about men going after younger women in their midlife crisis, even though they don’t want to have children with them, makes them feel useful knowing they’re with someone that could have children. Considering men spend so much of their lives trying not to get a girl pregnant, I just find it interesting that they end up dating someone younger when they don’t even want kids just because they like the option that they can. I don’t know. I didn’t write the article, but I thought it was interesting.
Women experience a midlife crisis different because they have different stressors. A lot of women feel a sense of loss, or sense of purpose, when their kids leave for college. They became mothers and that becomes their whole thing. They put all their energy into that and whether they were stay at home or not, it doesn’t matter, their energy was their kids. Then their kids get older and they leave. They start on their own and become independent and mom is left to wonder what she should do. This logically makes total sense to me. I could imagine that that is hard for any mom to all the sudden not be truly needed on a day-to-day basis like they have in the past. And this probably gives them a lot of spare time that they don’t know what to do with.
Women also can feel invisible. This one hurts a little bit. It hits on the heart strings a little bit. That word invisible is so terrifying. I don’t know if I feel that yet myself. I feel more confident at 38 then I did in my 20s and maybe that sounds strange. I don’t know if it’s that I’m actually more confident or I just stop giving a shit what other people think of me. It’s probably somewhere in between, but something changed. In my 20s I was so focused on what people thought of me and what I looked like. Now I dress more for myself. I want to get ready in the morning because I want to feel good about myself. That’s actually something I’ve learned from 2020. It’s been great living in lululemon for the last year and not having to put on tight uncomfortable clothes or an underwire bra. But there was a point where I was talking to Christian and told him I just didn’t feel sexy. He sees me as sexy and so it’s not about me trying to impress him. Maybe in my 20s it would have been. I wanted to be the hottest girl in the room, which let’s be honest I never was. But I wanted people to look at me in my 20s. While I want Christian to find me attractive, it’s not why I try to look good every day.
I try to look good every day because I want to feel attractive from the inside. I finally got to the point that while I may not leave the house for three weeks, I still should at least put on some mascara because it makes me feel good about myself. It’s the little things right? But in social media, in TV or general images around us, I can see how women start to feel a little bit more invisible. There’s less representation of older women that are perceived as sexy and beautiful within society. The sexy, beautiful female character that we see in society is the youthful version that can have children. The same women that buy Corvettes to impress.
So while I get it, I’m not there yet. I’m not feeling the loss of sense of purpose when the kids leave home and I don’t feel invisible yet. But I can understand how that’s different for women. They say men usually relate their midlife crisis to something career-wise. Maybe they feel stuck in their career. They’ve hit a wall or are in a rut. Interesting for women that wasn’t the case as there are more women in the workforce than ever before. But men have a midlife crisis due to work and women due to what she looks like and the role she plays in her kids’ lives. Those are very different priorities.
For me personally, I don’t have kids so it’s really connected more to my job. It’s where I’ve spent most of my time, creating this career and professional life for myself. Not that I feel stuck in a rut but I’ve never done something for over 15 years. When you were younger, you go work at this restaurant or your go be this shot girl at this bar. You have these different jobs; I’ve had the most random jobs. But I’ve never had a job or a career for over 15 years. That seems like a lifetime to me! I think 2020 was this time where you start thinking about how you’ve been doing this for a very long time and questioning if this is what you want to do forever. Is this what it’s gonna be? Maybe it is but it’s that piece for me that hit in 2020 especially when there was a concern that I could lose it all. I could lose all that I had worked towards with this company I love working for. I could lose this thing that I’ve worked so hard for.
My sense of a midlife crisis coming on was a little bit of the female part but a little bit of the male part just based on where I am in my life. Either way I was still look at my life and thinking “OK, I’m going to be 40 soon. What am I doing with my life? What is there to change? Do I need to adjust anything?” To me, that’s what a midlife crisis really is – Reevaluating where you’re currently at and then determining what should change.
Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If the midlife crisis is truly just a time to reevaluate your life choices and how you want to move forward; then maybe instead of us looking at it as a negative, we should be looking at it as an opportunity for positive change. In 2020, I felt a new level of low and had some really hard, dark moments, unlike anything I had ever experienced. But sitting here in 2021, I look back at what happened and maybe it wasn’t all bad.
Some of it was much needed. I learned I could be so hard on myself. I’m so freaking hard on myself about everything. I overthink things. I’ll come out of a meeting at work and wonder if I should have said something differently. Who cares? No one else thinks about this as much as I do. I used to consider it almost a badge of honor I carried around like “No one is harder on me than me” like that’s a good thing. In 2020, I realized it’s not. If I can’t even give myself a break, why should I expect anyone else to?
I learned other ways to soothe myself. I got a Peloton, which has been amazing. I randomly cry when I take Sundays with Love. If you’ve never taken it, it’s like going to church for me. I will randomly tear up in the middle of class, kinda pathetic, but it feels good and it makes me feel good. I look forward to that as it’s a release. And this podcast. This podcast wasn’t a new idea that came out of left field. It’s been in the back of my mind since I was a teenager (yes prior to podcasts existing).
When I was younger, I wanted to be the next Howard Stern. I know that sentence right there aged me a bit. It wasn’t because he would like talk to porn stars and be annoying. It was that he was a huge radio voice and could do and say what he wanted. I was in my rebellious stage at that time so I wanted to be able to say and do what I wanted. He would talk to celebrities, travel and I thought it looked like the coolest job ever. That’s what I wanted to do. When I went to college, they didn’t have a radio program so I did media instead. I did try to be in radio and fulfill that dream.
I interned at a shock-jock station and Saint Petersburg, Florida where I was fired live on-air. No, I’m not kidding. I was an intern for the morning show, and I would wake up at 3:00 in the morning and drive to Saint Pete every day. When I started, he wanted me to come in 2-3 days a week because this was an unpaid internship for school. But I wanted to show him how much I wanted this and offered to come in five days a week instead.
That sounded like a great idea. I was under 21 and had way more energy than I have now. But waking up at 3:00 in the morning every day, driving to internship, then a full day of classes and ending with your paid job at Chili’s so you can afford rent five days in a row? Well, let’s just put it this way, it didn’t take long before I totally got sick and slept through my alarm. This is not normally my style. I’m actually a morning person. I showed up the next day with donuts in-hand. I got there early as I felt horrible for being late. I had left messages the day before when I woke up with no answer. He brings me up to the radio station studio and starts having a call-in listeners segment. He asks them to vote I should keep my job or not.
I would like to say that they voted I should keep my job and should not be fired, but he decided they were wrong and fired me anyway as I was crying on live air. I had never wanted anything so bad in my life and he was crushing my soul in front of a live audience. I waited for him after in the parking lot, clearly having no dignity at this point. Almost three hours later, he came down and I begged for another chance. I apologized over and over, and he told me,
“You know what? I just think you didn’t want it bad enough. If you wanted it, you would have slept here if you were having a hard time getting it in the morning.”
I didn’t let that stop me though. I moved back to Chicago after college started interning for another station, KISS FM in Chicago. Another unpaid internship. I was super excited. I was in the promotions team and I was going to work my way in the studio. I started doing some voiceovers like one for Structure. For those of you under 35, Structure was the male version of Express which is now called Express for men. I still remember the radio spot saying something like “Do you have structure in your closet” in my sexiest voice. Very awkward when you’re staring at a wall in the studio.
So I was a promotions intern and staying with my dad in the suburbs. I had no car, so I had to take the Metra train in-between. I wasn’t going to let my last experience be a repeat, so I gave it my all. I made this my second chance. I slept at that station probably three to four nights a week because I couldn’t make the last Metra train home after working promotions at night. I was doing great. Killing it. I was getting more opportunities, and everything was going great. I was starting to feel good and was getting my confidence back. Then there was a Halloween party that the station was throwing.
I was working it as an intern. After the party, works from the station came to celebrate and drink. My boss, at the time, was buying us all drinks. I was 21 at the time so it was legal. I was having a Captain Morgan and Diet Coke, because that was unfortunately what I drank at that time and now can’t even sip because it’s disgusting. I come in the next Monday and my boss brings me into his boss’ office. He’s sitting next to her, facing me, and she asks me “I heard you were drinking at the party Friday.” I explained the event was over and everyone was buying drinks. She explained as an intern, it was against policy to drink. I explained normally interns or under 21 but I’m over 21. And everyone, staring at my boss, everyone was drinking. It was post event. He then jumps in and says “I told you to stop drinking multiple times and continued. I still saw a Corona in your hand after I asked you to stop.”
At that point, I knew what was coming next, but at least this time it wasn’t on air. So I turned to my sarcastic self, which my parents adore by the way, and said
“Oh. Well, that’s interesting because I was drinking Captain and Diet, so I don’t really know what Corona you saw in my hand.”
Sure enough, I was fired for the second time. Everyone kept telling me not to worry. If you get fired from Radio three times, you know you’re going to be success. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s bullshit. After that, I wasn’t working and had no money because I had been working for free. I moved back to Florida where my mom was living and was a pet sitter for her business until I fell into an advertising job as a media assistant. The rest is history and it’s been over 15 years now.
I tell you all of this because there has been this part of me this entire time, not all the time just every once and a while, that I wonder:
“What if I would have kept trying? What if I didn’t just give up after two shitty experiences? What if I kept going?”
While I had all that time to think in 2020, I realized if I’m ever going to do this or be able to answer that question, it has to be now.
I have to do something now because when we do start on next chapter, and if I am blessed enough to ever become a mother, I’m never gonna have this kind of “free time” again. Even though I don’t really feel like I have a ton of free time in my life. But I’m certainly never going to have this amount of free time for the rest of my life. So if I don’t try to do something now it will never happen. I’m not saying that I’m gonna quit advertising. That’s not really even what it’s about for me. It’s just this outlet that I’ve always been curious about that I have had in the back of my mind for over 15 years and 2020 has finally given me the courage and the motivation to say,
“You know what? Life is too short. It’s time I just follow my dream and just see what happens.”
Maybe it will be an amazing hobby. Something fun on the side. Maybe it will be more than that but you’re never gonna know unless you try. So maybe instead of 2020 being my year, this is actually going to be. In 2021, I’ll start a podcast, get married, go on a honeymoon (not to New Zealand probably more Hawaii) and start next chapter of life.
I mean 2020 might have been a delay but this could be the best year yet.