When I started university at 19, I remember thinking that I would have life all figured out by 25. I would no longer be scared of spiders, I would be able to cook a roast, I would work in a swish office and wear high heeled shoes and suits from my capsule wardrobe, would understand politics, and stop walking into rooms and seeing the over 40's as 'grown ups'. I would be able to change the oil in my car, always have what magazines call 'store cupboard staples' and be mature enough to always carry Paracetomol and tissues in my well organised handbag, along with my 'signature lipstick.' And I would know what all the buttons on the washing machine meant. Not just the one that says 'Quick Wash 45 minutes'
I remember a particularly earnest conversation with my friend as we travelled on the National Express coach for a weekend trip home from university. 'If I haven't met the man I'm going to marry by the time I leave university, I'll be really worried.' As it turned out, I didn't meet him. Neither was I worried.
Nowadays science shows that we don't develop our adult brain until we're in our late twenties. So it's no surprise really that at 25 I hadn't ticked off even a few of those things on my 'Life Figured Out' list. In fact I couldn't imagine my life beyond 30 (boring, old), 40 (dull, ancient) or 50 (decrepit, possibly dead).
We might look back on our youth with rose tinted glasses as a time of endless possibility, but actually did we really know who we were and what we wanted? Some of us might have fallen into the first job that was offered simply because it what was expected of us and because we were taught that jobs were scarce. Most of us wouldn't have really known our true identity, and the strengths and value that we brought to that job. We simply didn't yet have enough self awareness or life experience under our belt.
Midlife, far from being a time when we start eyeing up elasticated waistbands and browsing garden fence catalogues, can be a time of huge enrichment, fulfilment and transformation. With age comes freedom, wisdom, inner peace , confidence and self acceptance. Midlife is the perfect time to take stock of what's gone before and what might be ahead. It's a time of possibility and potential. It's a time to ask yourself a big fat WHAT IF?
Don't underestimate what you, as a woman in her forties or fifties brings to the table. All of our varied life experiences both positive and negative, can be alchemised into pure gold. Many of us have navigated motherhood, careers, health issues, relationship changes, menopause, financial challenges, pets, house moves, ageing parents and the understated emotional labour of raising a family. We will have honed a huge number of strengths such as compassion, empathy, resilience and skills such as negotiation, listening and problem solving. By now we are very adept at putting problems into perspective, and are less focussed on the comparison trap and feeling as if we have to prove ourselves.
Now is a good time to take stock of all our successes, failures, regrets, wrong turnings, detours and achievements. What have we learned and are we where we want to be in life? There doesn't have to be a major epiphany or a big reveal. It could be just tidying up the corners of our life a bit, packing away what no longer serves us and introducing fresh elements - applying for a job-share role to free up some time for yourself, starting a vegetable patch, joining a social group that share your hobby, expanding your mind through learning. Or of course it could be something more drastic like being on Bake Off, learning how to scuba dive in Mexico, opening a homeless shelter or starting up your own Vegan cafe. If so, then go you!
In fact, one of the fastest routes to a sense of fulfilment and purpose is to be of service to others, to share our time and skills or wisdom with others And when we are fulfilled and connected to a higher purpose, then we are better placed to serve those we love. In other words, we become a happier person, a better person to be around. Like the saying goes If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
If you're wondering whether you might need a bit of a midlife stocktake, I've put just a few ideas below - prompts to help channel your thoughts. Of course in reality there are many more life areas that can be addressed and you yourself will know which ones are important for you.
Career - are you happy at work? Would you like to work longer/ shorter hours or just work differently? Is there a particular area of your work that you'd like to develop? Could you deepen your enjoyment of work by bringing something into the workplace that might benefit others - like holding a weekly lunchtime meditation session or an after work running club.
Knowledge and learning - do you read as much as you'd like? is there something you'd like to learn more about out of interest or is there a new skill you'd like to acquire? Is there something that you're proficient at that you could share with others? Could you be a mentor or tutor to younger people?
Hobbies - what are your hobbies? Do you want to go deeper with any of them? Is there something that you've always wanted to get into and could start now? Could your hobby become a business?
Health - do you have any niggling issues that you've been ignoring for too long? How's your physical fitness? Are you eating enough of the right stuff? Are you getting enough sleep?
Finances and legal stuff - what are your financial goals and are you on track for eventual retirement? Do you have a will and is it up to date?
Personal style - do you look the way you want to look? Is it time for a wardrobe cull? Do you fancy a complete change of hairstyle/ colour?
Relationships - how are your relationships with your partner, family, friends, colleagues? More importantly how is your relationship with yourself?
If you are where you want to be in life, then well done. There's no shame or smugness in being happy, confident, settled and on track. Give yourself a pat on the back. You're gold dust. Share that happiness, use your wisdom and knowledge to help someone else who needs a lift up.
But if you realise that you're not quite aligned with what you truly want, don't beat yourself up. There's still time, and small, seemingly insignificant changes can often ripple out into unexpected joys.
Far from being the last part of your life story, midlife could be the most important chapter yet.
If you'd like to explore where you are in life right now, I'd love to work with you. I offer one to one coaching online, on the phone, and when possible face to face (Nr Horsham, West Sussex). Or sign up for The Life Review, a highly effective six session programme (twice a month over 3 months) in a small group to help you take stock of all areas of your life and reflect on whether they are working well for you. You will be given the opportunity and space to look at your life afresh in order to grow, evolve and make changes
Each session will take place on Zoom twice a month on a weekday evening 7-8.30pm (once lockdown is over, there will be a chance to meet face to face if preferred (West Sussex)).
I also run regular workshops for teenagers as well as one to one coaching, and am currently looking at setting up a 'Talking Circle' online aimed at providing small groups of teenage girls with a safe, non judgmental, confidential space to share anything they would like to talk about. If you’re interested in any of this, please get in touch. My details are above. Alternatively, if you’ve found this article interesting, sign up for regular newsletters or leave a comment below. Thank You