I gather that your standard mid-life crisis is a mid-forties affair, these days. For some it’s a reaction against the realisation that time ahead is likely shorter than time behind, coupled with a desperate bid to deny that, by emulating your own youth a bit. Fast cars, motorbikes, new partners, affairs, all that kind of thing. It doesn’t have to be like that, of course. For many people the midlife crisis is a time of recognition.
Materialism, work and normality have not delivered enough, something new is called for, and this is a time that brings many people to Paganism generally, and Druidry in particular. Rather than denying mortality, some people respond to it by trying to go deeper into life. Un-shockingly I’m all in favour of that.
Like most people, I spent time in my teens experimenting with identity, trying to figure out who I was, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go with my life. Then my twenties came along, and despite some really unhelpful circumstances, I raised a child, studied with OBOD, ran a folk club, learned the bouzouki, and wrote a lot of books. Somewhere in all of that, I lost a lot of pieces of myself, and a lot of my sense of direction. Disenchantment and despair featured heavily.
I may be technically a bit young for a midlife crisis (36) but I find myself harking back to my teens a lot, trying to reclaim the person I was then, the sense of direction, purpose and hope that spurred me on. It’s not resulted in fast cars, drunken depravity or sexual misbehaviour because I didn’t do much of that first time around and it holds no appeal. I’m not looking to drown out the cries of reality and mortality. I want to open my eyes again, not find a bigger bag to pull down over my head.
Going back to the habits of my teens has involved a lot of needlecraft, and I’m starting to up-cycle clothes and other things again. I’m determined to get back into dancing. I used to be a crazy, wild, uninhibited dancer. The first one on the floor at a gig, not caring who thought what of me. I need to lose my self-consciousness and get back to that. I need to sit on hills all night. I’ve gone back to studying, but I want to do more of that, finding people who could, and might take mentoring roles. I don’t want to be directed, but it’s good to have someone to go to now and then. I’m relearning how to believe in my own work, and how to believe that I can make a difference. I’m relearning how to trust.
Crisis is in many ways a good thing. It is so alarmingly easy to fall into ruts and holes, shuffling along with habits that we don’t think about. It is so easy to end up not living out your dreams or walking your truth, knowing that your teenage self would be screaming at you if they could see how you betrayed their hopes and sold them out. Been there. Got the t-shirt. My teenage self was considerably wiser than my twenty-something self. My teenage self had not been frightened into submission or bullied into hopelessness. My teenage self believed. We don’t have to give up the bright idealism of being young. We don’t have to ‘grow up’, conform, settle down, go with the inevitable flow of banal job, television, commute, as we disappear into a fug of apathy. It is never too late to stop and say, “hang on a minute, this is not where I meant to be,” and do some other thing.
My teenage self knew that most of what goes with being “a proper grownup” was stupid, dull, pointless and not worth having. I climbed, all too willingly, into the straight-jackets mainstream society has ready for all of us, but it is possible to climb out again. You may need to go a bit mad first, but it’s well worth it.