Someone asked me the other day why I refuse to refer to the transition that occurs for most career women in midlife as a “crisis.” While it’s true that the word “crisis” means a crucial or decisive point or situation, or a turning point, it also has about it an air of instability and upheaval.
There’s a negative connotation to the word, which perpetuates the stereotype of women being emotional and irrational. While both men and women experience the inevitability of midlife, it’s largely women who are branded with the super-charged “C” word.
I’m more comfortable with “midlife transition” or “midlife awakening” or any phrase that allows women to embrace in a more positive way what it means to age.
The “Someday” File
Midlife transforms you from the person you were to the person you were meant to be. It’s a new birth, a new beginning, an opportunity to pursue dreams and goals that were neatly tucked away in the “someday” file we kept in the back of our minds while we raised our children or launched our careers, or both.
It’s like an automatic “do-over” when you hit midlife (not that we’d necessarily want to redo our lives up to this point). It’s a take stock, take no prisoners exhumation of the soul, which if done with courage and exacting honesty, enables us to pull out that “someday” file and sift through the dreams, aspirations and goals that are ripe for implementation now.
The Reset Button
I can think of so many career women in my own life who have rummaged through their own private “someday” file and are leading more authentic lives: a former colleague who turned down a promotion to have more time with her family; a friend who forfeited a steady income to launch a new business; another who started a family at 45; still another who went back to school to earn her PhD at 65.
It’s a heady time for midlife women. We can be grandmothers in our 40s or be first-time moms. We can be launching new businesses or reaching the pinnacle of our career trajectory.
We have so many opportunities that our mothers never had, largely because of the struggle we engaged in to redefine women’s roles, and the way in which we kicked to the curb the rules about what women should and shouldn’t do.
Hello, My Name Is…
When I think of my own experience with navigating the transition from my late 30s through my 40s, “crisis” is not the word that comes to mind (although I’m guessing that family and friends don’t necessarily agree with that statement).
The journey was a bit rocky, but largely because I wouldn’t get out of my own way and let go of all the outdated beliefs I had about myself. Once I turned off those old, worn out tapes I was able to access my “someday” file and create this new, increasingly more authentic chapter of my life.
After a lifetime of being all things to all people, I felt the call of something deeper and I connected with my purpose and deep intention for my life.
Because we don’t live in a vacuum, I felt the external twists and turns, and the shifts in perspective that come with any major life transition, but for the most part, the transition was an internal one.
It was a long, last look at the life I’d led.
It was a journey of gratitude and appreciation for where I’d been, and it became an invitation to where I’d yet to go.
At the end of all the reflection, I made an offering to myself to open up to another way, another life that rings more true to the woman I am in this moment.
My next transition involves a search for significance, an expedition to uncover the wealth of the self, a rite of passage to my highest purpose and to a life that is as unique as my fingerprint.
How do you see the journey for career women entering midlife? Is it a crisis or an opportunity for reawakening? Post your comments here and on my award-winning Sacred Success blog.