The Pressure of Thriving When Surviving Has Been Precarious For So Long

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In another piece, I talked about midlife crisis. But I didn’t dive as deeply into it as I probably should have. I stayed on the surface, wondering about it in passing — what midlife crisis actually was. And if it actually existed, outside of silly jokes about it.

I missed what it looks like in my own life. Until now.

You can see the wonder in certain people’s eyes, when they get to know you and realize that you weren’t always so stable.

There are people who are used to subsisting on almost nothing. I am. And in fact, many of my closest friends are the same way. I think we like to hang out with one another because we get each other. We know what it’s like to have nothing, what it’s like to claw like hell, and what it’s like to finally get to a place where you’re kinda, sorta hanging on.

It’s nothing like the world our parents told us we’d be living in. But it’s a far cry from where we used to be. We’re surviving. Somehow, we’re surviving. And it’s a lot less precarious than it used to be.

We’re stable.

At first, it’s weird. And then it’s great. But then the next phase sets in: You start to feel a lot of pressure. You’re surviving now, which has been your goal all along, hasn’t it?

Well, you made it, kid… what are you supposed to do now? Is surviving all there is? Or should you keep struggling upward and onward somehow?

Are you supposed to try to thrive?

The Pressure of Thriving When Surviving Has Been Precarious For So Long

“I keep thinking I should be doing something more,” one friend told me the other day. “That I should have some kind of calling. That I should be thinking bigger, reaching for something greater.”

She admits it’s not the sort of thing she can talk about in public, particularly as most of her peers are still struggling. Wondering about self-actualization in that climate would be insensitive to say the least.

“There’s all this pressure to thrive,” she says, “which is silly when even surviving was precarious for so long.”

“No,” I say. “I get it. I really get it.”

And as we talk, it dawns on me that this is the midlife crisis a lot of my close friends are quietly having. Not flashy sportscars. Not trading in one spouse for another. It’s nothing that ever appeared on those Over the Hill novelty playing cards my parents’ friends snarkily gifted one another as they all hit the big Four-Oh.

It’s not something that’s talked about openly, because those who are having it know others have it worse. (And can vividly remember having it worse themselves.)

But it’s a midlife crisis nonetheless.

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