In Marin / CONVERSATION
IF THIS WAS
WOULD YOU BE
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and there’s a lot of drama and there are a lot
of different characters; we live our lives in
chapters and at midlife so many are waiting
to be written. Part of being a middlescent is
knowing that we’re going to keep growing and
things are going to change — and often, that’s
an uncomfortable place to be.
That sounds a lot like adolescence. Funny you
should say that. Did you know that adolescence
was first named in 1904? The psychologist
Stanley Hall recognized various social factors
in play after the industrial revolution, and that
kids were struggling with identity shifts and
changes during this time of life. So he named
adolescence. Since then, we’ve known how to
work with it. It would be really helpful to name
life’s newest stage for the 82 million people who
are middlescents right now.
How is middlescence like adolescence? There
are a lot of similarities. It’s a time of transition.
Our bodies are also morphing, but probably in
ways we don’t appreciate. Our hormones are
changing — and by the way, that’s true for men
as well as for women. And a lot of relationship
shifts are happening. We’re transitioning
from early adulthood to the core and beauty
of what adulthood is, and what follows is more
the age of mastery.
How is it different from a midlife crisis? If you
talk to someone who is going through what we
call a “midlife crisis,” and you ask him or her
what’s really going on, you find out it’s not a crisis. It’s turmoil and change. Some people don’t
handle it well, don’t go about it the right way, so
everything blows up in their wake and we call it
a crisis. It may be a crisis for other people more
than for them. But research shows that people
don’t report they’re really having a crisis.
What about the free-floating anxiety that
many people feel at middle age? I think a lot
of this is because we need to normalize aging.
In my work as a coach, people tell me, “Barb,
I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but I don’t
know what I want to do or who I want to be
when I grow up. And by the way, I’m 56. I’m
a grown-up.” I hear this across the board for
middlescents, like we all have this secret. But
it’s not a secret. The anxiety that people feel