Are You a Middlescent?
Adolescence, as we know it, didn’t exist as a word until psychologist G. Stanley Hall coined the term for a book he wrote in 1904. Today, we recognize adolescence as that time when we experience a major transition (puberty) in who we are and how we see the world.
Prior to this book, society rushed kids into adulthood—marriage, babies, and working in the factory all happened in your mid-teens. Fortunately, we now see adolescence as a natural and necessary prep for adulthood.
Maybe it’s time for a similar rethinking of midlife when our bodies are changing once again: hair is gray, thinning or gone, eyesight changes, wrinkles appear, women complete menopause, and men experience andropause hormonal changes. Our bodies are emerging out of the core of adulthood and transforming into something else.
Well-respected gerontologists, Ken Dychtwald and our MEA guest faculty member Barbara Waxman (read her fabulous The Middlescence Manifesto), have been popularizing the idea of “middlescence” as a growing life stage created by increased longevity patterns in the 21st century (Barb is on a mission with this!). Although, while adolescence may have all kinds of rituals and societal guidance to help young people through this transitional time of life (bar/bat mitzvahs, communion, quinceañera, college counselors, etc.), little is provided for midlife. Where was my guidance counselor at age 45?
The challenges we may feel in this stage of life don’t have to be a shameful secret. In fact, after 20 years of work on midlife, Barbara Waxman defines it as “marked by an increased desire to find meaning’s in one’s life.” In fact, here's a video of her CBS Morning interview. Middlescence is a time to be acknowledged, celebrated and, hopefully, ritualized to turn this time into something we can begin to cultivate and honor.
What if all these transitions you’ve been going through in midlife are just normal for your age?