Why is everyone having a midlife crisis?

What’s been going on lately? People are stressing out. Marriages are under strain. So many people seem so unhappy. Is it the economy? Is it our jobs? Why are people acting so uncool?

“And you may ask yourself-well…how did I get here?”

Maybe because these are the people I associate with, I’ve seen this most in my own generation — Gen X and the oldest of the Gen Y’s. Why is this happening? Are we upset because we’re not where we expected to be at this point in our lives? Is it dawning on us that we’re not going to win a Nobel Prize or be billionaires or retire before we’re 40? Is the economy preventing us from buying that Corvette/Lotus/Tesla that we so wanted?

Did we have the wrong role models? Maybe Ferris wasn’t right after all. Maybe being too cool for school isn’t going to work out. We shouldn’t have been so cynical. We shouldn’t have held back so much. We were scared that everyone was watching, when in fact no one was. We wore “slacker” like a badge, when it was really a tag. Were the Baby Boomers right about us?

“How many times a day do I have to tell you to BE COOL?”

Let’s call a spade a spade. Gen X is having a midlife crisis.

We need to take responsibility for ourselves. Do we honestly believe that _______ [our wives/our families/our friends/our peers/our bosses/our reports] _______[messed things up/got in the way/held us back]?

Wouldn’t it be better if we sat down, took stock, and wrote up some goals for the next 40 years of our lives?

If we don’t like our jobs, why not do something else? Aren’t we something more than what we get paid to do? Now is the time to step up and do something great as a generation. Didn’t the Harvard Business Review say that we’d leave the workplace and start our own companies? We were supposed to show how lean, nimble companies could outperform the Goliaths. Where are those companies? What are we doing?

Get a grip

More money won’t make things better. A new girlfriend won’t make things better. A new car won’t make things better. A new life won’t make things better.

If we’re struggling to figure out what the Meaning of Life is, try this:

Each person is but a temporary trustee of the life stream.

— Bossard and Boll, in “Sociology of Child Development” (1948)

I remember when my wife first told me that the old sociology textbook she was reading for her field exam had flat-out told her the meaning of life: that we are “guardians of the living stream”. At first we laughed. Then we thought about it and realized that, in some sense, they were right. I’m not sure how that line made it through all of the revisions and rewrites and feedback and editing, but this satori-inducing phrase rang true. We’re not going to be here forever. We can’t change the world by ourselves. In the end, the only way to ensure the world gets better is to get it together: make a difference while we can and teach our children. Our most important duty is to guard the next generation and protect them and nurture them and teach them so that the “living stream” keeps flowing and keeps improving the world.

It’s not about our expectations. It’s not about showing everyone. It’s not about having it all. It’s not about us, and once we get over that fact, we’ll be fine.


About Rino Jose

Trying to find good ways to develop software.

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