Yesterday, Mike asked me if I was having a midlife crisis.
He didn’t ask me, now that I think about it. It was more like a statement: “This sounds like a midlife crisis”. He didn’t say it in a mean or condescending way. It was much more matter-of-fact than that, and, to be fair, not really out-of-line with the conversation at hand.
We were talking about my current affinity for piercings. And when I say, “current”, I really mean an affinity that I’ve been nurturing for the past several years now. It started with my nose ring (which I got around the same time I dreaded my hair, which I’m told was another midlife crisis red flag), and progressed to stretching my ear lobes, then piercing my cartilage, and my daith, and my tragus. Earlier this year, I took a young friend with me to my piercing shop – because one of my favorite things to do with visiting friends is to go get pierced together – and fulfilled a long-held desire to pierce my belly button.
Not a lot of people know that about me. so there you go. I pierced my belly button shortly after turning 43. And I love it.
I got my first tattoo at 30, which the young 20-something guy at physical therapy told me was “really late” to get started, and a couple of months ago, I got my tenth. I have no plans to stop.
And I mean, you can call it a midlife crisis if you want. But I’d have to argue that it’s pretty much the opposite. In my mind, a midlife crisis is a sort of desperate and frantic thing. An outward expression of an inward mind that is freaking out about getting older. It’s an attempt to grasp at … something … to help reclaim some idea of youth.
And can we stop right there for a minute and acknowledge the fact that “middle aged” is a really silly concept to begin with? I get it, and I understand that it comes from averages and everything, but none of us – not a single one of us – knows how much time we have left earth-side. So the idea of me, or anyone, being middle aged is purely hypothetical. Yeah, sure, I’m not 20 anymore. And I’m actually really glad about that.
But to get back to my point:
I’m not desperate. I’m not frantic. I’m not freaking out about getting older, and I’m not trying to reclaim my youth. I’m just finally being myself.
I spent the better part of four decades trying to live for everyone else. Trying to please my mother, my friends, my teachers, my church. Everybody but myself. A free, and related, piece of advice: This life strategy does not work, is not actually attainable, and just makes you miserable. You’re welcome.
I like piercings. And tattoos. Full stop. My extended family does not. And you know what? THAT’S OKAY. I mean it is really, truly okay. I’ve decided that a lot of what people call a midlife crisis is not a crisis at all, but a person finally deciding that they are going to stop making decisions for anyone else. That they are no longer going to give two flying flips about what their friends or their family members think about their hair or their clothes or their job or their hobbies or their piercings.
You don’t have to like the way I look. You don’t have to like ME.
You don’t have to like me even a little bit.
I like me. It has taken me a (painfully) long time to say that with any honesty, but I do. I like me … warts and shortcomings and all.
I am strong. I’m kind. I have a big heart. I am empathetic. <—- (filing those away for the next rainy day, when I might not necessarily believe them). All that other stuff? Piercings, tattoos, clothing? That’s just packaging. It means nothing.
And what I’ve realized in the time it’s taken me to write this blog post is that I don’t actually care if I’m having a midlife crisis or not. I really don’t. Whatever I’m doing, whatever you want to call this stage of life: I’m going to keep it. In fact, I’m going to embrace the hell out of it. It feels good, it feels right, and it feels freeing.
That 20 year old girl, the one who did what she was told, and didn’t make noise, and didn’t stand up for herself, and didn’t pierce her belly button – even though she desperately wanted to – because nice girls didn’t do things like that? She wasn’t me. I mean, I was in there, somewhere … but I was buried under a morass of religious and societal and self-imposed pressure. I barely had an original opinion in my head, and I wouldn’t have honored it even if I did.
I have opinions now. (A massive understatement, if ever there was one, for those who’ve read my blog for any length of time. :))
I am comfortable with and happy with and proud of those opinions.
I am comfortable with and happy with and proud of who I am.
Even – or especially? – if it took me 43 years to get here.