Every once in a while, I consider if I am at midlife the person I expected to be when I was younger. Prior to my twenties, I didn’t imagine much past 28. It’s not that 28 was some sort of deadline, but it was an age that resonated in my head when I thought about the future.
In many ways, I’ve fulfilled the visions of my youth, but given that I didn’t consider life past my late-20s, I can’t say that I am who I reckoned I’d be. I had few expectations.
But one thing I imagined about midlife in the generic sense was that people settle into a loop that plays over and again as they head toward their golden years. Don’t think that by “loop” I mean “rut,” because I choose that word very specifically. A rut is like that saying about the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. My dependence on sweets is rut. A loop is more like a routine, I imagined, though not in the strict sense of a schedule. It’s that point that one gets to when they have established a rhythm in their life, a collection of interests and responsibilities, and a community. Together these elements comprise their world.
To my great delight, this loop doesn’t exist, even when interests, responsibilities and community have a solid role in one’s life. The number of changes I made between my high schools years and 28 do not compare to what I have done between 28 and now. Though I haven’t earned any diplomas or degrees during this time, I’ve had an education that has been just as valuable as the one that comes with a transcript. I still like to learn. In fact, I may enjoy it more now than I did then. My desire to succeed remains. But my definition of success is more complex.
I am settled in ways that I wasn’t at 28. I don’t move apartments every year as a result of salary increases. My responsibilities now include lives other than my own. But, I probably embrace new things more easily than I did then. I am more open-minded. I have greater expectations of what life should deliver.
I find that in midlife, I am in less of a loop than I was at 28. It’s exhausting sometimes. And it’s easy to blame that fatigue on age. I didn’t test myself in this way as a younger person, though, so I can only assume that I have less energy. Maybe I just know how to drain the cup and ask for a refill now.