...Unceremoniously stripped naked and laid bare for all to see (or so I thought). It doesn’t always happen in midlife. I’ve spoken to many who have themselves experienced this very same event in their thirties, some even in their late twenties, but for me and thousands of others all over the world, and my guess perhaps some of you reading this, it happened in midlife.
… That awkward adolescence-esque period of time when everything changes, at least that’s how it felt for me, and on reflection, the feeling was indeed mirrored by reality. For the first time since my uncomfortable teenage years, I wasn’t quite sure where I belonged…
In my mind, I was still cool - yet not as cool as the thirty-somethings that surrounded me. I was intelligent, knowledgeable, and wise - yet not quite as au fait with the ever-advancing technology as I’d like, which then made me question the value of my aforementioned intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom. The world it seemed was moving faster than me and as I looked up from my desk, in that moment, I felt as if I’d been abducted by aliens and dropped in a foreign land!
Now, I should just mention, when I say ‘unceremoniously stripped naked and laid bare for all to see’ I’m speaking metaphorically, although for me it was intensely real.
As I looked up and surveyed that foreign landscape, not recognizing a thing, not belonging, I was forced to look at myself. I mean really look at myself (for perhaps the first time in a long time) and ask the question - who am I?
That question opened the floodgates. My mind springing into action, happily reeled off a list of ‘things’ or ‘personas’ I was or had been… all, on the face of it, were accurate descriptions of an outward image I’d portrayed at one time or another - yet suddenly, not a single one felt right!
If I wasn’t those things, then who was I, and what were they all about?!
Those personas, it turns out, were masks (yes, plural - I’m a little embarrassed to say there were many) I’d worn over the years to allow me to function in a specific role, to be what ‘society’ expected of the person it believed was best suited to perform it.
Each hiding the real me, who apparently (well this is what my thinking and belief systems at the time would have me believe) would not have been ideal material for those roles had they ever been exposed. I now know this to be little more than a mind game.
Imagine though, multiple masks developed over decades to hide who I truly was from the world, and myself. It really was no wonder, looking up from my desk, seeing that the world my masks had lived in had changed that, in that moment, I was lost, confused, and quite frankly a little scared.
.... Scared, as forcefully and unceremoniously I was being stripped of my masks and laid bare for others to see as if life were an elaborate and personal masquerade ball - until finally confirming I no longer belonged.
At that moment, it would be easy to have played the midlife crisis card, gone wild, and attempted to regain some of my identity and relevance, purchasing a sports car or motorbike - got ya! There’s that old pattern again - almost the creation of another cover-up and yet more masks…
Or worse still accepted the apparent irrelevance to this new world and drifted into an entirely unfulfilling middle-age and a retirement that had all the life and vibrancy of a stagnant pond.
Not sold on either, as each mask dropped to the floor came the reality, within each mask was an element of me, of my truth, the essence if you like. And it's these others saw (not the mask). With that truth, life without the masks wasn’t so scary. Perhaps it was time to get to know the person who’d been hiding behind them, to reconnect with who he really was and what he wanted…
And in doing so, rather than facing a crisis, I see what lay ahead: a brand new chapter of extreme relevance and value as a modern elder - part of the continued evolution of the now all too familiar ‘sharing economy’ and perhaps it’s most important for humanity - the wisdom sharing economy.
Pete Craig is first and foremost a heart-centered human - a coach and mentor supporting high-performance leaders and men in midlife through periods of transition and growth. He’s the co-founder of Corazon.cc (Spanish for heart, courage, spirit and love) where he and his metaphorical brother, aka business partner, are supporting the wisdom sharing economy.