Thursday, September 5, 2019

This is What My Midlife Crisis Looks Like
In this day of Instagram Influencer mania, when youth is worshiped and celebrated like a massive cult, it's a little hard to admit I'm "Over the Hill".  In my head, I'm still in my twenties, and when I have to give my age, I have to stop and think really hard about it. By the way, it's 41. There, I admitted it out-loud. I'm 41 years old.

I've written a couple of things here in this space and deleted them because they were such cliches about age: the aches that didn't exist before, comfortable shoes, wrinkles and gray hair. But I don't want to go there with this post. "Old" is a universal state with common experiences shared by us all--no need to rehash.  What I'd rather do is reflect on how my awareness of my "progressing maturity" has manifested in ways that might not be so common and familiar and cliche. I think I am experiencing a sort of mid-life crisis (I'd rather call it a renaissance, though) and this is what it looks like:

It started with a trip to the Outer Banks for my 40th birthday. I've pretty much lived in central North
Carolina my whole life. I grew up going to the southern beaches like Emerald Isle, Wrightsville Beach, and Myrtle Beach. I had grandparents who lived on the Bogue Sound at Cape Carteret, and after college, I lived briefly at Carolina Beach and in Wilmington. Although it's only 3 hours away, I never had a reason to visit the northern beaches known nationally as the "Outer Banks," composed mostly of the shoreline from Ocracoke to Corolla along Highway 19. But for my 40th birthday I wanted to celebrate by doing something I'd never done before, so I booked a stay for my family in Nags Head. We did all the obligatory tourist stuff like visiting Jockey's Ridge, the Wright Brother's Memorial, and, of course, Cape Hatteras lighthouse.

That trip was like the first domino sending me tumbling down a path of new experiences. My family is passionate about water sports. My husband and son love to fish. I like to bask in the sun, read books in the shade, or splash around in the water. My son is getting older and we wanted to invest in something that we all loved doing together while we still have him at home with us, so we broke down and got a boat. Some folks get sports cars in their middle-age; we got a pontoon. The dogs possibly enjoy it more than we do.

As fall crept in and the cooler weather put a damper on our outdoor activities, I started planning
In Times Square with Mary
events more compatible with the season, which ended up including a trip to Jersey City and New York City to visit fellow ATB blogger, Mary Fan. If you need inspiration for how to go out and experience life in unique and exciting ways, spend a few days with Mary. We did the New York things like eating, shopping, and Broadway, but I also let her talk me into trying something completely new: aerial silk acrobatics:

If you know Mary, you probably know she's taken the aerial silks to a much higher level, literally and figuratively. She's also becoming super proficient on the trapeze, and I keep waiting for her to announce she's running away with the circus. Spending that weekend with her, hiking all over New York, inspired me even more to not let "old age" hold me back. I used to be very athletic and fit, but busy schedules that come with advancing careers, marriage, and having a kid had sidelined much of that for me. But when I got home from New York I was determined to get back in shape and start pursuing new interests of my own.

In November of 2018, I signed up for the February 2019 Krispy Kreme Challenge: "an annual charity event in which participants run a 5 miles (8.0 km) road course leading to a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop, eat one dozen doughnuts (totaling 2,400 calories and 144 grams of fat), and run back to the finish line in under 1 hour." 

I didn't eat all of the donuts and I didn't run the whole time--I have a bad knee that won't accommodate extensive running anymore--but I had spent close to three months training for it and was in much better shape than I had been in a long time. In an effort to continue with my fitness progress, I signed up my son and I for a gym membership, and we actually go on a regular basis. There's this treadmill/stair-climber machine that is both my greatest love and greatest nemesis all in one--it calls to me when I'm away too long.

We went back to the Outer Banks and saw some different lighthouses and looked for wild ponies. I took my son to see a stage performance of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief at the local theater. We renovated our living room, turned our back porch into a laundry room, and opened up the kitchen so we have more space to sit down and have a family meal together. As it turned to summer, we spent more time on the water, and I pursued my newly developed passion for paddling.

You may remembered my post about discovering Hindi cinema (aka "Bollywood". Here's the link to that: Escapism, Bollywood, and the Shirley Temple Effect) and that new, uh, obsession opened me up to even more unique experiences. I signed up for a Bollywood dance class. Talk about getting out of my comfort zone! Feel free to laugh at me. I sure laughed at myself a lot but I had so much fun.

My interest in Indian cinema inspired me to study Hindi language and learn more about the history of south Asia. I finally got an Audible account (after years of making excuses about not having time for audio books) so that I could spend more time on non-fiction--I prefer to listen to non-fiction rather than read it. I've learned about the history of India, have listened to historical Indian mythology epics like the Ramayana and I have started teaching myself Hindi. So far I've managed to learn the Hindi syllabary, and I'm working on vocabulary and grammar now. They say learning a new language is a great way to work out an aging brain and stave off dementia and Alzheimer's. Who knows, but it's worth a try.

Next week, I'm anticipating the start of a new "Fitness Paddle-Boarding" class through my local parks and rec system. It's supposed to be yoga and Pilates. On a paddle board. I wonder how that will go (I typed that with some sarcasm). I'm sure there will be pictures. Probably embarrassing ones.

This has been the year (and a half) of a new kind of self discovery, and I'm having a blast. The last 40 years went by so fast, it makes me a little afraid of how fast the next 40 will go. I don't want to waste that precious time. There's still so much out there to see, do, experience, and learn! Remember that slogan from the old hair-dye commercial? I don't want to grow old gracefully. I'm going to fight it all the way. For me that's not about denying my gray hairs and wrinkles and aches and pains but about making the most of the years yet to come, so that when the end days of my life are upon me, I hopefully will have something to look back on and be proud of. I'll be so epic my kid will tell stories about me. Or, in the least, maybe he'll show his grandchildren embarrassing pictures of their great grandmother dancing and falling off paddle-boards.


Suzanne said...

I love this! Bravo trying all these new things--you're an inspiration to me. ��

Karissa Laurel said...

I have to say Mary really inspired me. Hopefully I can pass on that spirit of exploration and adventure!

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