Hi! My name is Carmen. I am forty four years old and I am currently negotiating through the muck of midlife. Instead of falling victim to the clichés of flashy expensive sports cars and chasing twenty somethings half our ages, my husband and I opted to move to Mexico. Yeah, we quit our jobs, sold our house (who wants to be a long distance landlord? Yuck!), and ran away to Puerto Vallarta with our eight year old son.
Despite the previously mentioned clichés, how a midlife crisis manifests itself is unique to each individual. Never the less, in my experience, there is one sure fire litmus test: mainstream-bubblegum-pop-music.
I’d had my suspicions about my condition, but on October 10th, 2014 I could no longer ignore the ugly truth. That night will forever be burned into my memory, because I finally admitted that I was having a midlife crisis. The person who opened my eyes, if you can believe it, was none other than Taylor Swift. I know! Go figure!
It was late in the evening and I was feeling blue as I did a little light surfing on the internet. Looking back, I don’t know why I clicked on the link. Maybe it was because the title of the song seemed like a bit of perfectly timed advice. Hmmm, the beat wasn’t too bad. I began to do the standard Canadian chair dance which involves a sidewise head bop coupled with low key torso movement, so that you can easily pretend that you really weren’t dancing if someone looks at you. About half way through the song I realized that I liked it… a lot. Even worse I thought the video was cute and funny! What had happened to me? Who was I? And why oh why was I enjoying pop music that was intended for my son’s demographic? I went on Facebook and confessed my insanity to my goofy, pun loving friends who promptly told me to “Shake It Off”.
In the end that is what I did. Since I moved here, I have noticed many personal changes. I have been “shaking off” all the old garbage that I was carrying around with me. You know, those stupid self limiting beliefs that we impose on ourselves. (Or at least I imposed them on myself. I don’t know about you guys.) Immersing myself in another culture has made me reevaluate what I had come to view as fact.
I am truly surprised at how fast my daily life in Mexico has become “normal”, however, there still are days when I wonder, “How in the blazes did I get here and what am I doing?” It has been an interesting ride. If you want, you’re welcome to come along with me.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Picture it. The majestic snow-kissed Rocky Mountains lay to the west of the city, while open rolling plains, covered in a fluffy snow duvet, stretched far to the east. The sun was just peeking over the horizon. Soon, the snow covered ground would be a brilliant display of diamonds. And where was I? I was drudging my way through rush hour traffic on slippery roads covered in snow the shade of a tall latte (mmmmm latte). Shortly after that, I was standing outside my son’s school stamping my feet and introducing my shoulders to my ears in a vain attempt to retain body heat. Despite my Sorel boots, merino wool socks, and a base layer, I was freezing. I couldn’t figure it out. I grew up in southern Alberta and had never felt this bone numbing chill that now settled on my body every winter, even when properly dressed for the conditions. To my dismay, this intolerance for cold coincided with turning forty. This was the first indicator of the onset of, (cue dramatic scary music), midlife.
Yup, the big FOUR-OH kind of snuck up on me. Unlike many women, the number didn’t bother me. What did put my long underwear in a twist was how I couldn’t stay warm. As well, I seemed to have lost the ability to lose weight even with regular exercise. In retrospect, my rather heavy Starbucks/Tim Horton’s Coffee habit coupled with daily driving in Calgary’s extensive urban sprawl probably didn’t help, but I digress. (Yeah, I digress a lot. You’ll get used to it.)
I guess the second indicator was work. I was a continuing education Spanish instructor and I loved it. It was a wonderful fulfilling part-time job, unfortunately, I needed full-time work. And so the job search began. I tweaked and customized my résumé according to the requirements of each job description. I sweated and fretted over brilliant cover letters. And in the end, I got exactly zero interviews. Instead, I cobbled together four part-time positions that fit around my son’s school schedule. I was like a spastic frog jumping from job to job day and night.
I wasn’t the only one who was running. Many days my husband and I would do what we lovingly called “the hand off”. He would arrive home fresh from work, while I was making dinner. A quick peck for a kiss and I was out the door to one of my four jobs while he completed the rest of the evening chores and cared for our son. He also had a part-time job and often was working late into the evening when I got home from one of mine.
Like many Canadians we were trying to get ahead in a very expensive country, and to be truthful, “trying to keep up with the Joneses”. Regardless of all our hard work and determination, the bank account wasn’t increasing. Life seemed to be “grinding us down”.
That brings me to the next indicator—THE GRIND. Yes, I capitalized it. Personally, I think that this factor is what chews up and spits out the majority of us middle aged folk. In my twenties, I was excited by the scary, yet invigorating question “What are you going to do with your life?!” (Hands up if you suddenly flashed back to that Twisted Sister song I Wanna Rock.) Now in my forties, the same question was banging around in my head, but it wasn’t exciting anymore. (Get it? “headbanging”? Ahem…) Anyway, I felt like all my forward momentum from my younger years had just stopped. My husband and I called it treading water. Some days, it felt like we were treading water in the Jaws movie poster.
Did I mention that it sucked? It sucked!
We couldn’t continue this way; the stress levels were simply too high. Then one day my husband returned from a bike ride with friends and out of the blue asked, “Would you be interested in moving to Mexico?” I couldn’t believe my ears. My husband’s Spanish consisted of “sí”, “no”, “gracias”, “cerveza” and a few other words that shouldn’t be repeated in front of your grandmother, if you don’t want your mouth washed out with soap. I stared at him with a goofy grin on my face, “You know I would love to!”
Since moving here, I will admit that some days I feel like I “have bitten off more than I can chew”. The numerous changes can sometimes be—overwhelming. Despite the discomfort, my forth decade on this planet has become very interesting of late. I am definitely no longer treading water! I have begun to swim toward a goal again. I guess that is what I really wanted all along.
Let me end this editorial with a little post script to Taylor Swift. When you hit your own midlife crisis come look me up in Vallarta, girl! We can have a margarita and jam. I promise to get my Canadian butt off the chair and dance for real.
If you are interested, here are the links to the two music videos mentioned in this column. Enjoy!
Twisted Sister—I Wanna Rock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRwrg0db_zY
Taylor Swift—Shake It Off https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfWlot6h_JM