I’m a full-on walking cliche of a mid-life crisis.
Shouldn’t come as any surprise.
- Mid-40s: check!
- Low thyroid / depleted / exhausted: check!
- Relentless parenting of small children: check!
- Stuck in my career with no upward path: check!
But just the normalcy of the mid-life-edness of it all has hit me like a flaming garbage truck. I can’t seem to get up from the wreckage. It feels like every time I try, I just fall over again, stunned by some other completely obvious detail I should have seen coming a decade ago. And hoo, boy, have I tried self care. Let me tell you. During a pandemic that looks alot like taking a shower every once in awhile so I can cry uninterrupted at the frustration that my CBD oil isn’t doing anything to actually help me out, like watch, feed, & entertain my children for weekends on end so I can rest up for another round.
I tell myself all of this probably would have happened without a pandemic? But that question mark remains, and I can’t seem to resolve that thought. And then that unresolved question just makes me feel like even more of a cliche, which makes me feel even more….empty? A shadow of what I had hoped I would be by now.
Sometimes I think this is where I’m stuck, though. Full-on erasure of the messaging us GenX women received that we will be able to have it all.
It’s like I can’t get through endless attempts to problem-solve to where I need to get: acceptance that this just is how it is, and how it will be. I just want to get to the next. I need to escape this problem solving and start living the next chapter of my life having accepted such things.
No matter what I try, I can’t. My brain just keeps trying to trick me into reexamining the issues, as if I think about them hard enough, or long enough, some magical solution that I hadn’t seen before will materialize. Instead of accepting that the problems I’ve got are generations deep, rooted in women not getting paid equally, in women not being able to achieve their own career ambitions, in women not being able to have both a career and motherhood. Basically, I’m a casualty of the complete & utter lie GenX women were sold that we could one day have it all.
I can barely have a day. My thyroid is failing me. I keep googling whether people go part-time or on long-term disability for Hashimoto’s, because, you guys, I’m so goddamned tired it’s ridiculous. I sleep more than my 80 year old mom. The only time of day I have any energy or brain thinky ability is during the morning work hours. Which I suppose is good because it pays my bills and keeps my kids safe & sound & insured & so on. But that means that my stupid job gets the “best” of me, while my husband & kids get me who goes: Nighty nite!
So it seems to me I also can’t have a career. If my health means I am to choose between my employee self and my actual whole self – the everything else of me, I would choose me. So what if I quit? My career has come to a stark dead-end, anyway. There’s no “up” where I work, and nowhere else locally I can work in my industry. Moving is fine….except my husband’s job ain’t mobile. And, whatever, he can and is willing to do something else. Except there are no jobs in the “something else” he could do. So we’d be moving to more expensive areas to live on just my salary. And that’s if I could summon the wherewithal or shit to look or apply. And all to be getting a woman’s paycheck, so why bother, anyway? Instead I conclude I need to find a way to accept practicalities. That my husband will always command more $ than me simply because he’s a man, and since kids are expensive AF, we gotta prioritize what makes the most total-package sense for the whole of us. So let’s just keep the course, I guess.
Maybe I also can’t have deep-seated beliefs about the American dream of greater opportunity & mobility for women, either. I guess I get to take on the impossible task of unlearning a lifetime of being told & primed to think I would achieve great things…only to end up at a job where I’m underpaid and get a whole 2 weeks vacation time until 4 more years. I’m ready to aim to be the equivalent of a C- employee, barely scraping by, because the bare minimum still gets me the same paycheck & benefits. And trying to prove myself worthy of a better title & pay & way more time off has gotten me…..none of those, so why bother? I’m fine with that….if only I had a clue how to make that mental shift.
I suspect none of this is in any way, shape, or form out of line of women my age from any generation. Like most women in a mid-life crisis, I’m realizing many interconnected things. Life is short. Too short. And what remains grows shorter, and will go by so much faster. I want to disconnect. Downsize my career, since it is a dead-end sucking the life force out of me, and make the rest of the spheres of my life much higher priorities. I’m certain all of these problems were ever-present in the Before Times. It’s just that I’m now suddenly noticing it all, since, y’know, it’s happening to me.
I want to be done giving the little energy I do have in service to work, instead of investing my rapidly evaporating time where it belongs: in my own life, in seeing the world, in hobbies, in building experiences with my kids & husband. All of which take money, and so I have to somehow keep going at work, but only in service to my actual goals & priorities (the people, things, and places that I love). I’m betting that flavor of midlife crisis is time immemorial for working women.
But among the many things a global pandemic has added for my midlife crisis are also:
- I can’t uproot us to go be expats, to go live in another culture, one that doesn’t have such a toxic prioritization on work.
- Also, the kind of work I do doesn’t matter. It’s certainly not essential.
- And American employers so very clearly don’t give a single shit about us women, especially those of us who are mothers or care give for others (basically: all women). I’m watching women friends drop like flies out of the workforce, not just grim statistics you read about. And I’m so goddamned frustrated it’s happening, while men keep sitting at their desks making the more money they’ve always made.
I feel so stuck. I don’t know how to begin to make these changes take hold. And in this pandemic, when we’ve literally been physically stuck at home, it makes the stuck feeling all the more plain and real. I keep digging deep. I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have no practice yet in how to hollow out the career part of me and hoist a hologram of myself to and fro my desk to performatively pretend to give a shit so I can keep a paycheck and health insurance.
I’m new at admitting this mid-life crisis thing, even as I realize it’s actually been there inside me, building for years, just waiting for a pandemic to fully erupt.