Midlife is Like Learning Stick Shift on a Hill in the Rain.
When I was in San Francisco for our recent MEA alum reunion, I recalled a college memory of me trying to drive a stick shift on Russian Hill with my freaked-out girlfriend by my side. We had come up from Palo Alto for a weekend and borrowed a friend's car—manual transmission and all.
Everything was fine until we hit the streets of San Francisco. Of course, it was raining, and our tires gained no traction on the Hyde Street cable car line. I also didn't know how to drive a stick. It wasn't long before we lurched back into a honking car behind us. The driver got out of his car to berate me, putting my fragile masculinity on clear display for my girlfriend (not the only reason our romance wasn't built to last).
This ego-shattering memory seems like an apt metaphor for one of midlife's rites of passage. Both Carl Jung and Richard Rohr have suggested that our primary operating system for the first half of life is our ego (think: automatic transmission), but in the second half of life, we have a new operating system: our soul (think: manual transmission). We go through so many challenges during midlife that it can quickly feel like we're trying to drive a stick for the first time on a slick San Francisco hill. It's not always pretty.
Fortunately, as we start to build some familiarity with our soul, we come to realize that driving a stick is a tactile and engaging experience. It feels like there's more connection between the driver and the machine, between our soul and us. Getting to where we want to go becomes more liberating and infinitely more enjoyable.
C'mon down to Baja sometime to test-drive your soul at our midlife driving school, MEA.
P.S. Arthur Brooks featured MEA in his “How to Build a Life” column in The Atlantic yesterday with a feature on "Find Your Midlife Transcendence." And, Richard Rohr is joining me for a free online hour of insight and fun next Tuesday. We’d love to have you join us so register HERE.