Midlife crisis? No way
Exactly three years ago something happened. I was getting closer to 40 and I was going through so much weird stuff. For the past years or so I was feeling like I lost myself somewhere between driving kids around to their activities, being a mom, a wife, a co-worker and just me. I felt more like a taxi driver than anything else (not judging – nothing wrong with being a taxi driver if you like it). The kids were getting bigger and didn’t need me as much, but still, I felt like I was spending all my time on them. My husband has always traveled a lot for work, so it felt like I suddenly lost contact with the grown-up world.
I have always loved to travel, explore and meet new people. All of a sudden I was stuck. Well, maybe not so sudden, but it certainly felt like it. Well, guess what, I was having a midlife crisis.
For me, it was the question of “Is this it?”
You know how sometimes you just wake up and have a revelation or a brilliant idea, or suddenly realized something you didn’t see or understand before? I don’t want to sound like a cliché but that is actually how it happens! One day you wake up and realize that this is not where you want to be in your life. The thoughts you think (or I thought) are like:
“I am somewhere halfway through my life and didn’t achieve anything”
“Is there anything I can do for the rest of my life to give it a meaning?”
“Is there a meaning to all of it or you grow up, get a degree/job, get married, get kids, get grandkids and then you die?” etc.
Those thoughts were super depressing and have probably always been there, nagging somewhere at the back of my head – but one day they decided to show their face.
I don’t think there is a difference in emotional stress if you are a man or a woman while going through such a period. I think, however, that men and women act out differently. All the stereotypes show women trying to realize themselves through finding a meaning in their life, while men start acting like they are back in their 20s. I am not sure if stereotypes are right but I really needed some change – in any form.
Dealing with the sh*t
Well, what do you do in a situation like this? What changes can you make and how drastic should they be? For me it was awful – all of a sudden I had the urge for a huge change, but yet I was totally paralyzed by the fear of that. Changes are scary and not something that lays naturally in our human nature. All the questions in your head – should you get a new job, should you get a divorce, should you get new friends, should all of you move to another place? How on earth is it possible to make a decision like that when you are so emotionally screwed up?
Well, I made some choices along the road which might be considered bad or good, but they led me to where I am today. I won’t go into the details but I am so happy I made it to the other side.
The signs of “I will survive”
For me it was two things – I made a decision and I got support for it from my husband. I could now come out of my bubble and get active again.
After a year of on and off with different stuff, I came up with the idea of studying. I have always been a quick learner but never bothered to get a degree. Mainly it was because I didn’t know “what I wanted to be when I grew up”, but also because moving to a different country and trying to make it, you focus on getting a job instead of going to school.
I have been working as a middle manager at a private health clinic my whole adult life. But now it was the time to get a proof of what I was capable of. I searched the internet (thank God for Google) and found out I could do an MBA through distance learning with Edinburgh Business School, which is a part of Heriot-Watt University. My plan was to do 7 core subjects and 2 electives in 2,5 years. I forgot I had two kids, a husband who travels for work and a full-time job (picture me rolling my eyes here). Although the kids were 8 and 12 at that time, when my husband was away there was no time for school.
Having fun during my first year I thought “hmm, wouldn’t it be a great idea to expand my MBA program and take MBA with Specialism?” After all, I am probably never going to school again. Oh, my God, what was I thinking? Didn’t I already lose all my free time, my time with the family, my hobbies, time with friends and all other fun stuff? Studying a few hours every day after work, every weekend and only have one week off right after exams and two weeks of summer vacation without reading, was not as much fun as it first looked like.
The end of the journey and crisis
9 subjects turned out to be 11 and three years later – I have finally gotten my degree. Graduation in Edinburgh was such a cool and weird experience. I wore a robe in a true British manner, but unfortunately no hat – which I really looked forward to tossing in the air.
Like every student, I had a love/hate relationship with the studies. Well, now I look back and feel so grateful for so many things. Just the idea of my family’s sacrifice during these three years makes my heart ache. All the times I said “no, not now” to my kids, all the weekends I spend studying while my husband organized the kids and household. All the pressure I put on all of us during the intense weeks just before the exam. BUT – I feel it brought us closer and made me appreciate all the small things much more. AND I got so much new knowledge that I love!!
Now I just have to figure out what I want to do with all that. I would love to use my recent experiences and my new knowledge for something meaningful and maybe help someone who is going through something similar.
In Russian, we say “whatever happens happens for the best” – which means that what happens always leads to something good. Every decision we make affect us in some way, and sometimes also those close to us. On my journey to find myself I could have made some other choices but then they would have probably not lead me to where I am today. There is no shame in regretting bad choices as long as you don’t repeat them. Soul-searching is good for us – it’s how we grow and evolve. All our experiences make us who we are and I must say that I am really proud of myself for surviving the past three years. So let me tell you once and for all – embrace the change! As some wise man or probably a woman once said:”You will only regret the things you didn’t do” – or something like that.
The day after my last exam I and my husband went to Hong Kong for three days to celebrate. Remember, it’s extremely important to celebrate your achievements.