Design my reinvention
December 30, 2007 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Okay, here's where I politely ask you folks to help rig up a creative midlife crisis.

Scoop is, I'm a 45-year old female, educated, no parents, divorced, no kids. I have a steady job, a dead-end long-distance relationship, a home and housemate, health issues and no savings. It's time for me to break loose from all of the assumptions I've always lived with: I'll write books, get married, have children, buy a home in the country and garden, raise goats and drive a '69 Jaguar too fast while listening to classic jazz. Point is, there's no one tying me down, and yet I haven't accomplished most of the things I wanted to.

If you will, give me ideas to restart my life (I had a long list) on EVERYTHING.

Please note, I'm kind, bookish, smart, driven and prone to exhaustion.

I know this could go all aft agly, so please be constructive. This is a bit vague, but it's on purpose, since I want to be open to all suggestions. This is anonymous because this is an issue I don't easily confess, and because friends and siblings know my Metafilter ID. Gmail for this is
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Travel somewhere new. If you pack a bag and go it will be the first step towards re-evaluating things. Look at a map of the world and pick some place you have always fancied (and that your budget can handle) and get it booked so the next time you have holidays you will have something to really look forward to and you will be on your way. Good luck!
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:42 PM on December 30, 2007

I'm pretty much the opposite of you. If I could, I would travel, travel, travel. How about the Peace Corps (depending on what your health issues are) or a similar intense, long-term volunteer activity?
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:49 PM on December 30, 2007

1) Join the peace corps? It's stereotypical and all, but surely a prolonged exposure to the third world would serve as a major life reboot. Your health issues may prevent this, but there are similar programs in the US as well, which would probably be close to medical attention if needed.

2) Go to Israel, join a kibbutz- Goyim are accepted these days, I believe.

3) Go to Japan as an english language teacher. Live in squalor for three months, and take your earnings to live in nearby malaysia like a queen for 9 months out of every year.

4) Volunteer and mentor a kid in need- there are dozens of them in your neighborhood, in all likelihood.

5) Learn to play the french horn and start running marathons. Worked great for my dad, till his knee blew out. Then he had to get the yellow convertible Fiat. Turns out, those don't work very well.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:50 PM on December 30, 2007

Well, anonymous,

congrats for being so sure about things, and I love your descriptive power. With this in mind, I'm thinking "kind, driven, bookish, and smart;" perhaps starting a longterm "project" might be the way forward. Perhaps not as specific as the answer you may be looking for, but this project could utilize your skills, and keep you happy. My father has done this by fronting localism in the UK. My mother, prison reform. My brother has just decided (successfully) to join the British Foreign Office (who'd have thought it could be so easy), and I have decided, by researching religious fanatics and setting up a few questionably immorally fake accounts on sites like "Christian Friend Finder" and "Christian Penpal," to write a book, eventually, on the bizarre nature of "belief." By taking a course at The New School I've met several interesting authors, and for the next four months I'll have one of them on my team, helping me get through at least the first fifty pages of the book.

That's one idea. Another might be to find out which organizations in your area work in fields you appreciate. For example, if I were looking for somewhere to invest my energies at the moment, I'd take a ten minute walk to the Boys and Girls harbor in Harlem, and see if they have any paying jobs I could invest myself in. What could be more interesting than working with the futures of underprivileged children? You make a little difference, then by the time you're ninety-five you have several families appreciative of the help you gave them forty years ago, and now they want to repay you buy baking warm apple pies for you and listening to you dribble on about how in your day you used to play in dirt, AND you were happy!

Hope this helps! And good luck. I'd love to think the above vagueries were helpful, but I won't hold my breath. By the way, that "write a book" idea; it's time consuming, cheap, and as long as it's on a topic you're interested in...

Nick xx
posted by omnigut at 2:59 PM on December 30, 2007

Go wwoofing! (I would).
posted by b33j at 3:01 PM on December 30, 2007

I think it's normal to periodically evaluate one's life and where it's going. As we age we have more time behind us and less in the future and that can create a "crisis" or a feeling of semi-panic.
If you have a steady job you can stand and no savings I would start there and plan something a year or two from now. In the meantime, exercise, eat well, and end your going-nowhere relationship.
posted by bkiddo at 3:01 PM on December 30, 2007

Let go.

"When a client comes to you stressed out and fearful, tell him to take a moment, and take a deep breath. Then suggest that the best thing he can do is to have his nervous breakdown right then and there. Invite him to have his breakdown on the spot, so that he can get back into living a full life again, free from stress and fear! Believe me, the sooner you can completely let go, the better. In math, ten minus ten equals zero. In life, if you take everything that you have and minus all of it, you wind up with much more than you ever dreamed of!"

Get comfortable with yourself.

Find your passions.
(See other articles)

For sustainable change, take one small step each day toward your dreams, and make big bursts every now and then.

And read, a lot. If you want to restart on everything, you have to rediscover the world for yourself. Reading is not the only way, but the best way to rediscover it intellectually and even emotionally--though other mediums are almost as good to rediscover it emotionally, and better for some particular circumstances.

One process is to write down what you think is true and who you think you are. And then ask yourself of what you wrote: Is that true? Is that who I am?

"prone to exhaustion"
Almost missed this. Unless you're becoming exhausted doing what you love and waking up ready to be exhausted again, read this book Undoing Perpetual Stress or others like it--if you're exhausted, it's going to be hard to have the energy to change, but more importantly, it'll be nearly impossible to *imagine* what it is you really want.
posted by Furious Fitness at 3:13 PM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are tons of good resources for you out there. First and foremost though, I think you need to get to the bottom of what it is that you really want to do. There's that great part in "Alice In Wonderland' where Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which path she should take and the Cat says "well where are you going?", Alice responds "I don't quite know.", then the cat adds "well then it doesn't much matter which way you go then does it?". I only add that bit because it seems to me that quite a few people find themselves in the same situation as Alice, wondering where to go but not particularly having any destination in mind. Goal-setting is a whole other subject, but I would advise that as a good place to start. Be as specific as possible with what you envision. Reassess those assumptions that you say plague you. Think about what it means to be successful for YOU, some people want the car and mansion thing, others may choose family and friends, whatever it is you choose, once those ideas in your head become solidified and actionable then you'll know which path to follow because you'll know where you want to end up.

Everything else in your life will follow from these initial steps. What good are goals if you don't turn them into actions? I don't know enough about you to fill in all those blanks, but it sounds like you just need to get those thoughts into your bones and get moving.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 3:16 PM on December 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

driven and prone to exhaustion

It sounds like you've not been athletic before? Now's the time to change that!

Run a marathon.

Ride a century, or other long bike ride.

Finish a triathlon.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:20 PM on December 30, 2007

Three words:

Just do it.

(without the Nike brand association of course)
posted by samsara at 3:26 PM on December 30, 2007

I agree with bkiddo. You must think about your financial future - especially if you are single. That said, is your job portable? If you live in suburbia, would you consider a move to a large city? You'll never be bored again if you do. Or, take a month or two off of work and go to a residential yoga retreat. It'll shake up your body and your mind. In fact, the best yoga teachers I've had were all in their late sixties or early seventies.

My advice is to become obsessed about something - yoga, mountain biking or long distance hiking. Something active and fun. It'll break you out of your rut, and cause minimal financial strain. It'll also change the way you see yourself.

Finally, consider sex and drugs (but be smart and safe - don't go crazy) may have been the cautious type so far in life, but consider saying yes to inhaling and yes to the handsome guy.
posted by TorontoSandy at 3:29 PM on December 30, 2007

How about locking yourself in a rented cabin in the off-season and writing that book, then?
posted by DarlingBri at 3:32 PM on December 30, 2007

Well, we don't really know your situation, but you don't want us to. The financial question is an important one, but that's for you to judge. Travel, yes, but don't lose touch with your existing social circle and try to make the travel work in the bigger picture, so: maybe run a blog off the back of your travels, maybe one with a specific focus (cuisine? fashion?), make every day a load more jottings that you don't publish, take photos, and plan to generate a book. You may be surprised how many people will publish your book if you're prepared to write it basically for free: it's a start. Sex and drugs (TorontoSandy) is interesting, but I happen to think drugs are a dead-end and, well, exciting sex takes two, you can't just whistle it up. But exercise, lose weight, if you need to (I'm interpreting 'prone to exhaustion'), eat well, get fresh air: all that will make you feel better and maybe even think better. Good luck.
posted by londongeezer at 4:00 PM on December 30, 2007

I haven't accomplished most of the things I wanted to.

What was it you wanted to accomplish that you haven't? Apologies if it's "...write books, get married, have children, buy a home in the country and garden, raise goats and drive a '69 Jaguar too fast while listening to classic jazz." That section of your question is a little unclear to me.

At any rate, it sounds like you have some things you wanted to accomplish, and you're asking for things to do instead of working towards those accomplishments. But it seems to me that you have to find things which you want to do. We can only tell you things each of us would want to do.

Personally, I prefer to slow down, and figure out what's been holding me back from achieving my goals. If I decide my goals are actually unattainable, I prefer to modify them to something more realistic. New goals occur to me as I see what I'm drawn to. Asking for a list of things to work towards seems kind of unnatural and doomed to me.
posted by Coventry at 4:27 PM on December 30, 2007

At age 45, you should already know your strengths and talents, so I suggest making your mark now by utilizing a favorite talent. Call it synergy, call it momentum, call it whatever you want - but I personally don't think it's a good idea to learn something completely new and off-the-wall like programming regular expressions in perl in this stage in the game. I don't even suggest you visit a foreign land. You've got some skills, now use them.

When you make your decision. Unplug the televison and cancel cable, turn off the ringer on the phone, and go to town. When you finally surface from the cave, mission accomplished, you'll be more at peace with yourself.

And God bless you.
posted by survivorman at 5:05 PM on December 30, 2007

I'm guessing that it isn't particularly the goats or the gardening or the car that you rue not getting, but the sense of a specific kind of life that seemed appealing to you. What are those qualities? Meaningful human relationships (husband and kids), peaceful (goats and garden), cultured and creative (writing books, listening to jazz), financial security, comfort and aesthetic pleasure (the car and the country setting). You can still pursue those things, even if the details change.

For more immediate relief, you might choose some qualities above others. For instance, living a more cultured and creative life might make you really glad you're not busy giving goats vaccinations. If you adopt a child, you might wait and write a book while she's in college. You could take a Tuscany vacation and spend three weeks driving around with jazz on, come home refreshed and full of ideas for another adventure.
posted by xo at 5:08 PM on December 30, 2007 [3 favorites]

I came across this quote this morning... I think it was meant for you..... the author is Sterling Hayden

"To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... cruising, it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about. "I've always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone. What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?"

I hope you find your journey....
posted by HuronBob at 6:42 PM on December 30, 2007 [12 favorites]

Maybe it's time to seek out what your life PURPOSE is.

Everybody has one.
posted by konolia at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2007

start saving! this is crucial! Some kind of retirement fund of sorts.
next, kick any habit that is slowly picking away at your money - smoking, junk food, eating out, too many movies - and put this money away too for your Jag, country house or goats.

What do you do with your spare time? Is it productive or recreational? Napping too much or too much TV is probably no good, too hypnotic and soul-sucking.

I don't know what you do for a living or how successful/happy you are at your job. Is it time for a change?

See a therapist - just to talk to someone new. Someone who might give you a new perspective on life.

Take a career test - those really long ones (which you might have to pay a few bucks for). You get a whole list of careers that might be suited for your personality.

Take a Myers Briggs personality test - you might get a few insights into who you are

Do a numerology session - when I did it 10 years ago, it completely blew my mind, and I am a believer!

Go on a Hot Air Balloon ride - but only if you can afford it - remember your savings!

Move to a city/town where you always dreamed of living.

Start working on a business in your time off

Start your book. One page at a time! You got a computer. You got Internet. So there are plenty of sites (i.e. blogs) where you can store your ideas and pages - no excuses!

Good luck and congratulations (on your re-birth!). I know you will be a star - it is up to you now, to start shining!
posted by bitteroldman at 7:18 PM on December 30, 2007

30 day soba school in Tokyo. Then come back and open a soba-ya. Oh wait, that's my dream.
posted by spec80 at 7:53 PM on December 30, 2007

School! Take it from this 40-something, back in college after 20 years in pursuit of a fine arts's the best thing I've ever done. I'm doing it for purely personal reasons, not for a career change, and it's incredible. Oh, and travel.

If I had a million billion dollars, all I would do is travel and go to school!
posted by TochterAusElysium at 8:38 PM on December 30, 2007

Spec80, please to open that soba-ya in Seattle!
posted by TochterAusElysium at 8:39 PM on December 30, 2007

I like to think of life as being about the journey not the end result of things accomplished. That way the things I do along the way to get where I want have more value than the actual end. Each day has more value than that future unknown. Do things that take advantage of the moment you are in. Don't wait for everything to add up together into something else in the future.

Find some way to fit at least one creative endeavor in your life each day. Something you want to learn about. For me it's things like: read this particular book for a little while. Walk to work and notice everything I can about the weather. Sew some interesting fabric onto a boring bag Photograph everything tiny as if it is really large. Shop in a grocery store where I don't speak the language. Get out of town to some place new. Little things everyday.

Somehow since I've started approaching life this way those big things I wanted to accomplish seem to eventually happen through little mini daily steps. That said - do figure out how to set aside savings from each paycheck. Make a list of those big things you want to accomplish and then break them down into little steps. Try to do a little bit everyday. Finally, don't fret about decisions from the past. You made them for a reason. They were right for you in their moment of time. Good luck and enjoy each day!
posted by dog food sugar at 6:16 AM on December 31, 2007

I also agree with TochterAusElysium's point about school.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:17 AM on December 31, 2007

Adopt a child
posted by zia at 5:41 AM on January 3, 2008

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