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Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Solution To The Middle-Aged Blahs?

Guest Post by Suzie Hammond

So the birthday numbers keep rolling around and you’ve passed 45, and then 50, and life has definitely settled into that middle aged comfort zone.  You know the word ‘boring’ could be applied to your existence.
Some of the options we reviewed to overcome this dreaded problem were taking skydiving lessons in thunderstorms, joining a gang of rabid food co-op junkies, and turning our house into a modern artwork complete with splatter paintings inside and out.  We were afraid the splatter paint option would attract city citations we didn’t want to pay though.

So we took what seemed to be a less drastic action.  We moved.  We moved to a completely different area of the country actually, and then a few years later later to a life overseas.  We took on our middle age and made it into a lifestyle challenge.
You might want to consider it.  What would your life be like somewhere else?

The excitement of choosing a likely front running candidate for our new adventure was a bit of a secret at first.  The criteria we set was strict but similar to what most middle-age ex-hippies want;
a)  There had to be work there for people in middle age
b)  Also interesting things to do
c)  And a reasonable amount of safety for a couple who had slowed down but were still darned lively. 
d)  And of course life had to be affordable with some of our favorite comforts readily available.  (No use moving and discovering we could only afford to live in the poorest end of town.) 

Once the destination decision was made then we had to tell every one we were relocating.  Dealing with numerous howls of outrage and the helpful advice that we were mildly insane wasn’t enjoyable, but looking forward to a new life was.  Many charges of ‘middle aged crisis’ were leveled at us but we persevered, while privately worrying they might be right.

Next was the turmoil and less fun job of packing.  By middle age you’ve accumulated huge piles of ‘stuff’.  The relocating served the fabulous end of actually sorting out what was important in life.  When was the last time you used that waffle iron?  That outfit you bought 5 years ago and paid a lot of money for and wore twice?  That 1959 Ford transmission and hulk in the garage you bought 13 years ago that you were going to restore but haven’t gotten around to yet?  The universal consensus amongst people who have done it seems to be that it is amazing how free you feel when you let go of many of your things.  It somehow seems to open you up to new possibilities because you aren’t tied to useless things anymore. (The things we were sure we couldn’t live without went into storage literally and figuratively.) 

 Finding a place to live, unpacking and settling in to your new area can be a good deal of work but it serves up another overdue evaluation opportunity.  What is  comfortable for a couple or older family in terms of accommodation?  Do you really need 3500sf of house? Etc.

After a while the newness of where to find the post office and the best-priced grocery store will wear off.  Meantime fresh escapades will abound.  New friends and novel unexplored activities are there for the having. Many of these experiences we would never have had with such depth and satisfaction in our last home. (It is pretty hard to help clean up the beach on weekends if you live in landlocked croplands for instance.)
Most middle aged people who relocate find that the new place helped them grow as people in many unexpected ways. Not that people wouldn’t have grown where they were before of course.  But the figurative rising mud of complacency and easy comfort around your ankles in your old home makes it harder to look for those new experiences in your old and familiar area. 

Relocating thrusts us all into situations that insist we develop new capabilities, unless we fancy staying home and watching TV all day. The extreme solution of relocating found us making efforts to fit in and make a difference to our new communities.  Comparing notes with others we’ve found they too got involved and active more than before.

It may seem a radical solution to the situation but it was right for us and a surprisingly large slice of middle age people. Big changes in life are labeled ‘big’ for a reason. There are unexpected twists and turns to your plans.  Sometimes solving the problems requires the ingenuity displayed by our children when they were young.  With little effort they could come up with 30 ways to do anything we didn’t want them to.  We could all use more brain exercise and the challenges of relocating and making a new a new life for yourself certainly do that. 

Think it over and see if this might be a good route for you too.


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