If we really are living as long as all the media says we are then the question in the title makes a certain kind of sense. If, in ye olden days, a mid-life crisis started about 40, not quite mid-life when we were dying, on average, about 70 then, but close enough. As we’re now expected to live to 90 plus, or so they say, then 60 would be about right for a current mid-life which just happens to coincide with retirement age. As the article puts it
“All the data suggests that we’re living longer and beginning to adapt accordingly. What used to be pensionable age is now considered late middle-life”.
The comparison between the two life stages is worth a bit of consideration when, as the article says, – The Oxford English Dictionary defines the MLC as a “loss of self-confidence and feeling of anxiety or disappointment that can occur in early middle age”. I think for some of us this loss of self-confidence and a feeling of anxiety and / or disappointment is exactly what happens when we retire. Not everybody of course but maybe enough of us to bear an examination of what we can do to combat this time of trauma.
In addition, again for some, the crisis whether mid-life or as a result of retirement and I’m assuming for the sake of this blog that they’re pretty much the same thing, can bring with it a sense of a life wasted. Oh dear, a bit bleak I know but I’m hoping it gets better before I’ve finished. Again the article says, Anyone who watches sitcom or romcoms will know men are typically the butt of MLC storylines. But the writer and journalist Miranda Sawyer recounts a by-no-means rare example of the distaff MLC. “The strongest feeling I’ve had was that I’ve done it all wrong… I’ve woken up in this life and it’s not my life,” says Sawyer, recounting the moment her mid-life crisis truly descended. She had woken up one day, in her 40s, and felt her life “should have been something different”. So yes, maybe for some of us, we have a similarly negative feeling about our retirement.
The big question is, given a similarity betwen the two, what’s to be done about it. The article I think gives a tiny hint. It says “should mid-life be re-evaluated as a time to try new experiences and re-invent oneself?” Interesting I said to myself when I read this bit, because it rather echoes what I’ve been saying in these blogs about the need to develop a new identity in retirement beyond – retired person, retiree, senior citizen etc etc. In fact, a few weeks ago while reading a Huffington Post article on AOL, I happened to read, at the end of the article, whatever that was about, the following line – do you know something we don’t know? This I took to be an invitation to submit a guest article for the HP. For a short moment I allowed myself to dream about the fame or at least the publicity that would accrue if my blog were to be mentioned in this widely read internet site. Then I told myself, don’t be so bloody silly, they won’t want anything from an unknown chap such as you are. But not before I wiled away a few intriguing minutes about what I would send them. I think we were walking the pups through the local park so plenty of time between throwing and retrieving the ball to consider the issue and come up with (as it turned out) 5 eye-catching helpful hints. I settled on this attention-getting headline – The 5 Psychological Mistakes People Make When They Retire. It has a negative slant to it because that is the way AOL seems to like its headlines. Bloody good I thought and, against all my better judgement, I sent it (just the headline) off and guess what happened? yep, nothing, no response, nada, zilch, zero.
The reason I’m telling you all this now is that my first ‘mistake’ that I would have written about had I been asked, was that people failed to develop a new identity to replace their working persona, as above. That’s the link to the above. The second was that they had not taken the time to consider, before they retired or in the early stages of their retirement, what were the values they wanted to bring with them into retirement which would then inform their day to day action / activities when retired. Third mistake, and a big one in my mind, was they failed to be thoughtful about how they protected their self-esteem. I don’t think I actually got the full 5, despite what I wrote above, a combination of the walk coming to an end and no response from AOL or HP.
Now I’m sitting down writing this, even without the promise of fame and glory, I wondered what might be my final two ‘mistakes’. It’s not as if I’m not making plenty so I should be able to come up with a couple more homilies or rather negative homilies as we’re talking in terms of mistakes rather than solotions. So number 4, I think we retired people make the mistake of seeing retirement as some undetermined period of time and, being an uncertain time period – we could be dead tomorrow, we don’t bother to examine and determine our life goals / ambitions. I’ve written about this in a recent blog and comments that went with it and I know the jury’s out on goals in retirement, but I’m pretty sure they’re a force for good. Finally, and now I’m sitting here thinking, what’s the last one?? Well, I’m not sure, I’m going to cheat and leave it open, if you have any ideas then please let me know…
So another retirement piece of introspection and self-examination but that’s OK I think, I hope it raises some interesting issues about our retirement lives in the way that the HP article at least hinted at. What I’m very clear about is that there seems to be a huge amount of publicity about the psychological effects of people and their mid-life crises but precious little about the process of retirement and its psychological impact. Like I said above, it’s like we don’t matter as much.