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Mid-life crisis? Mid-life is NOT a crisis! - February 19th, 2014

Two months ago I got a new car. That’s really no big deal: the old lease was up so I drove the old car in and pulled the new one out.

The car, though, is red. That could be a big deal because I’ve never had a red car before, and every little boy likes a red car, right? So, after a half century of driving, I have a red car.

However, that’s about as big a deal as I make out of cars. I’m not a “car guy” and wouldn’t know a cylinder from a gasket. For me, a car is something to get me from point A to point B, and if it’s a cool car to boot, that’s nice, but that’s the extent of it. Anyway, I got a red car. No big deal, really.

Apparently, though, this new red car is noticeably a big deal, at least to one person; my neighbor called to say she noticed it. Then, engaging in innocent neighborly small talk, she asked if this is a sign of mid-life crisis. She thought that comment was cute. It was harmless and meant in fun, but it wasn’t cute. Mid-life crisis, my foot!

For the record, I’m not having a mid-life crisis, and I offer two statements of proof. First, if I’m at mid-life now, then I’m going to be around to 132, so whatever it is that’s going on in my life, it’s not “mid.” Too late for that. Either my mid-life is way in the past, dear friends, or I’ve got more to look forward to than I thought.

And the second is, simply, that mid-life is NOT a crisis. Or, shall we more aptly say, mid-life is not a crisis unless you think it is. Mid-life crisis is, for many people, that moment when you realize that your kids and your clothes are about the same age. I’m so very far past that, and when I had that moment, I thought it was hilarious, not a crisis.

But my neighbor’s comment got me thinking, not just in terms of my life, but in terms of the millions of 40-something and 50-something job seekers who are in some degree of career distress and who come to see me and thousands of other career coaches and counselors, people to whom mid-life really does seem to be a crisis to some extent or another. I never blatantly ask anyone if they’re having a mid-life crisis, per se, but when so many people of this age start their phone calls or emails with something like “I’m 53 and can’t find a job,” I know there’s an age-related anxiety. Instead of comments about being unemployed, lacking in a certain skill set, or being in a shrinking industry (all of which are more germane), no, it’s about the age thing.

Well, if this is an issue to you, then by the phenomenon of transference, it’s going to be an issue to those with whom you relate. If you give off any vibes whatsoever that you think your age is a problem, then it’s going to be exactly that. It’s like a shark smelling blood or a dog sensing fear.

Now you’ve got a crisis.

Your age is a problem only if you let it be. It’s like playing a porous zone defense and wondering why the other team is getting easy layups every time down the court – and then grumping about losing the game. You let that happen.

I’ve said this countless times before: your age – with all the skills, experience, wisdom, and perspectives that come with it – is your strength, not your weakness. That thought, in and of itself, should make you enjoy – and laugh at – this aging thing. Besides, for every one thing I can no longer do as I age, there are two I couldn’t possibly do when I was younger. How’s that?

The reason I bring this up is that I see so many mid-lifers in my practice and at my seminars, not to mention all the emails and calls I get. Without exception, the ones who make a crisis out of this are the ones who continue to have a hard time in the workplace. Oh, I know there’s age discrimination, but that’s only an excuse to keep on kvetching about your age, to make a crisis out of it, and to blame your situation on it. Sooner or later you start believing yourself, believing you’re in a crisis.

But if you laugh at it, that’s another story. When Golda Meir became the fourth prime minister of Israel two months before her 71st birthday (1969), she was asked at a press conference if the job would be too taxing at her age. She scowled at the reporter and scolded him abruptly, saying, “Being 70 is not a problem!” After letting a few seconds pass in complete silence (which seemed like forever to the reporter) she hinted at a smile, sighed, and said, “On the other hand, it’s not such a joy either.” The room erupted with laughter.

If being 70 isn’t a problem, then either is mid-life, whenever that really is.

Mid-life is not a crisis.

Career Coach Eli Amdur conducts workshops and one-on-one coaching in Job Search, Career Planning, Resumes, and Interviewing. Reach him at or 201-357-5844. Please visit and "like" him at