I recently had an interesting “reconnecting” experience. As a result of tragic circumstances, a group of my schoolfriends decided it was time to reconnect. With a little tech and time zone savvy, someone managed to wrangle 15 of us onto a Zoom call. The first few minutes were spent marveling at how clever we were to master the technology – and then of course the exclamations of “You look just like you did at school!” – mostly untrue of course, considering it was 30-something years ago when most of us last saw each other, in school uniforms, tears rolling down our faces on the last day of high school.
Seeing their faces again, and hearing their voices which really hadn’t changed much apart from some having the trace of an accent courtesy of an adopted country, brought memories flooding back. I found myself thinking back to my teenage years and began to compare some serious parallels in the life changes we went through then, and those we are going through now.
For a start, our hormones. Then, they raged and created emotional havoc; as teenagers our bodies changed, our focus was all over the place and our libido’s revved up – suddenly boys weren’t all that irritating anymore.
Once again, in midlife, our hormones are shifting, winding down, impacting our equilibrium as our emotions leave us feeling irritable, depressed, lacking concentration and not quite as energetic as before. And as for libido – it’s not quite revving, more likely gently idling, or even non-existent.
Our physical appearance changes. As teenagers, some went through huge growth spurts. Other’s didn’t. Our bodies changed at different paces – some girls became shapely and womanly overnight, other’s only after high school. Some boys had a 5 o’clock shadow, others blond fluff they frantically shaved in the hope of producing some stubble. It was an awkward stage and we felt out of control.
Now of course, our bodies are changing again; our hair is greying, wrinkles abound and we droop and sag in places we didn’t know could droop or sag. Some lose weight, but most notice weight gain as our metabolism slows. It’s not always pretty, and although some of us embrace these changes, some experience those same feelings of being out of control.
We become insecure about how we look. Teenagers look in the mirror and see spots and break outs. We’re seeing wrinkles, age spots and sun damage. And there’s very little we can do about it that actually delivers good results.
Lack of control can manifest in acts of defiance and rebellion. Teenagers generally become difficult to be around; they act out, become monosyllabic and avoid conversation at all costs. They make impulsive decisions, mostly not very good ones, and take no responsibility when those actions result in questionable consequences.
As mid-lifers, we have a bigger basket of defiance and rebellion options to choose from. We might revert to our teenage mode – moody, brooding, passive-aggressive non-communicator or the impulsive, external manifestation of our lack of control? We’ve heard them all and passed judgement – the stereotypical stories of the impulsive purchase of a bright red sports car or Harley, an affair, a nose job or more serious mummy makeover, start training for an iron man/woman competition, secretly look up old flames on Facebook or “burn down the house” as we run off with a younger model or pack in our jobs and Eat, Pray, Love ourselves silly.
Now that we’re supposedly older and wiser, we should recognise that our whatever our response, it stems from dissatisfaction. It’s time to take stock. The stakes are high.
Who are we? Just like teenagers, we too find ourselves asking the existential question “Who am I?”. We begin to re-evaluate; our job, our relationships, our role in the family … whether or not we are valued and our life has meaning. Have we conformed to expectations? Are we living an authentic life, true to who we are today? Is this the life we want for the next 20, 30 or 40 years? And if the answer is no, what comes next?
Could this be the start of a beautiful awakening? The time for our wisdom – collected over the decades – to help us reflect and take purposeful, thoughtful action? Hopefully, if we’re taking care of our hormones for a start, we get to choose and work towards reaping the rewards of being older, bolder, better.
Now, if only we could sleep like they do …..