Midlife Crisis: How Much We’ve Done vs. How Much We’ve Enjoyed Doing It

By Qin Sun Stubis

Fragile and vulnerable is how I’d describe the beginning of our lives, depending on others for every need from food to safety and comfort. We all come to the world this way: A bundle of helplessness, however cute, cradled in the arms of those who love us.

Only gradually do we trade our innocence for experience, taking our first steps in everything. Years, possibly decades, go by before we truly achieve our maturity and independence. As teens, we can’t wait to become grownups and stand completely on our own. When we finally grow to adulthood, we rush to pile upon ourselves an ambitious load of tasks and responsibilities, sometimes stretching our capacity to the limit.

Subconsciously, we may be compensating for the slow start of our tender years while the world was beyond our reach; consciously, we’re striving for a fulfilling life and testing our endurance. After all, the expression, “Time and tide wait for no man” applies to everyone, and we all want to live our lives to the fullest.

Imagine a juggler with an armload of objects, trying to toss and catch simultaneously. If you think that’s daunting, look at us, often laden down with jobs, hobbies, family responsibilities, religious obligations, and community service, dashing from one to the next.

While living a challenging life may be fulfilling, juggling too many daunting tasks for too long can be nerve-wracking. Life tends to catch up with us during our middle-age years–hence the term “midlife crisis”–when we begin to feel doubts about ourselves and everything we’ve been doing.

It’s an emotional crisis that, if it intensifies, can have damaging effects. It makes performing daily routines much harder as we try to maintain our mature, calm composure while coping with our suddenly topsy-turvy world and searching for the meaning of our existence.

Surprisingly, many manage to recover their equilibrium rather quickly with simple remedies like taking a vacation, having a talk with a friend, or going skydiving. Some not-so-lucky ones struggle hard within themselves for an extended period of time, feeling fragile and vulnerable once again. Only this time, under the polished facade of being a successful adult, the breadwinner for a family, or a pillar of the community, few feel as if they can reveal their inner doubts to ask for a helping hand.

The truth is that getting older is part of our lives. Feeling tender and vulnerable can be a meaningful reminder about how precious our lives are. Every life is a unique journey. As the traveler, no one but you should map it out. Don’t let life go by too quickly without savoring some precious moments, no matter the uncertainties.

Remember, like any trip, life is not always about how much we’ve done, but how much we’ve enjoyed the doing.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com

Qin Stubis is a regular columnist in The Santa Monica Star.

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