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in the last century. In 1900, we lived to 47.
Now, we live to 80 or older. But those aren’t
30 decrepit years at the end. We’ve added at
least a couple of new, vibrant decades to the
middle. And yet people still think of midlife
as a no-man’s-land. I was talking to my son,
Matt, the other day, and he’s an innovative,
start-up kind of guy, and he said, “Mom, what
you need to do is rebrand midlife.” So I’m
rebranding it as “middlescence.” I know that
by naming it we’ll help people see all of the
potential that actually exists.
Can you define middlescence? Sure.
Middlescence is a transitional period, usually
between the ages of 45 and 65, when people
want to find or create greater meaning in
their life. It’s often accompanied by physical, social and economic changes, and it’s a
turning point, from which adults continue to
develop and grow.
What does that mean in practical terms? For
middlescents, it means that there’s an inner
sense of “I’m not young but I’m not old.”
People are looking around and asking, “Where
am I in the scheme of things?” The rules used
to be that you continued doing what you were
already doing — working in a long-term job or
field, raising a family — it was as though your
story had already been written and all your
choices made. But the rules have changed,
even if people don’t know it yet. There’s inspiration all around us. There are people in their
50s starting companies; about half of all new
businesses in the U. S. were started by people
45 or older. My vision of middlescence is that
it’s actually the pinnacle of life. We still have
vitality and energy, and we have the benefit of
wisdom gleaned from our own life stories.
How does that differ from how we experienced middle age in the past? Whether we
were aware of it or not, we grew up thinking
that life had three chapters. The first was
learning and going to school. The second was
working and meeting the perfect person and
having the perfect family. The third chapter
was leisure and retirement. The truth is that
we cycle in and out of periods of learning, we
cycle in and out of relationships and the roles
we play. Life takes a lot of twists and turns