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Is midlife a quest or crisis?
Midlife is the old age of youth and the youth of old age.
If this is true then many people are standing on the threshold of a "new youth." It is what Gail Sheehy in her book, New Passages, calls the "second adulthood." We all have a second chance at becoming the person we are meant to be. This second chance is called midlife. However, midlife is a new and often dangerous territory.
What is a helpful image for the midlife process? Perhaps it is the Midlife Quest in which there is a challenging adventure of seeking, exploration, and discovery. Or, it might be Midlife Metamorphosis where there is the profound change of reformation and transformation. Another image is that of Midlife Renaissance with a new birth, a new beginning, and a chance to start over. There is also the possibility of Midlife Crisis where there is a sense of urgency along with intense emotion and perplexity. Of the four possibilities it is Midlife Crisis that is ultimately most appropriate. This is because the two fundamental elements of crisis are found in all of the images.
A Dangerous Opportunity
The Chinese word for crisis readily shows these two basic elements. In the Chinese language the ideogram for crisis is made up of two separate characters. One of these characters represents "danger" and the other represents "opportunity." Thus the proper translation of crisis from Chinese is as a "dangerous opportunity." Any crisis in our lives provides the chance for change and growth -- the opportunity -- as well as the risk of regression or stagnation -- the danger. In the images of Quest, Metamorphosis, or Renaissance both opportunity and danger exist. You may not always attain the goal of the Quest, the Metamorphosis may not be complete, and the Renaissance may be a still birth. The danger of midlife is very real. Successful transition to the next life stage is not guaranteed.
When entering the challenging and crisis oriented territory of midlife it is helpful to have a map. A map can orient you, give a direction, and indicate a goal. It identifies the danger and opportunity. Maps come in all shapes and sizes. They can be vague only suggesting the way or may be detailed and provide several paths to follow.
This series of Midlife Web Pages provide maps as general orientations to midlife. If you are to take the midlife journey, you need to know the terrain, understand the destination, and have a goal in mind.
The Ladder of Life