NAVIGATING THE THREE-QUARTER LIFE CRISIS
For baby boomers entering a new phase, making life decisions is a difficult proposition Chuvalo shares insider info in candid memoir
You may have heard of the quarter-life crisis, most certainly the mid-life crisis, but threequarter life crisis? Seems there isn’t a phase of our adult lives where a “crisis” isn’t lurking around the next corner waiting to frustrate, scare, embarrass or humble us.
Just for the record, here’s a snapshot of each crisis you may have yet to encounter or maybe you’ve already got the badges for all three:
Quarter life crises are a fairly recently labelled phenomenon where 20-to 30-somethings fret about what to do with the rest of their lives.
You know the clichéd drill of the mid-life crisis. Fortysomething, follically challenged, rotund guy buys a Harley or a flashy Porsche while the female version may re-enact an Eat Pray Love scenario — off to find herself doing meditation in Bali or India.
The three-quarter life crisis is the one that’s received the least amount of attention, but no doubt those self-absorbed baby boomers will make sure it gets its due in the next few years as a record number of Canadians sail into their “golden” years.
But will they sail through without a bit of angst and indecision? Some will, some won’t.
That’s how me, 52, and my husband, Doug, 61, ended up in the big comfy chairs in the office of Rhonda Zabrodski, a Calgary counsellor who helps people like us cut through life’s complications.
Calling our situation a crisis would be an exaggeration, but that doesn’t make it any less important, say the experts.
It’s more of a case of ongoing indecision about what we’re going to do with the next 20 or so years of our lives — if our knees, money and general health hold out. We know we still have to work for a number of years, or will we join the millions of boomers who refuse to budge from the workforce? Yet another decision.
Should we cash out with Calgary’s generous housing prices on our side, move to be closer to family and grandchildren or hit the road and become vagabonds for a time before we can’t do it anymore?
It’s been cause for some great discussions in our house and with friends over wine — or martinis for the more existential questions.
Why all the angst? Zabrodski says we’re collectively spoiled as a society. “I think we have the luxury of more choices,” she says.
Barring that all is well in the marriage, Zabrodski says, “It’s kind of a cool time ... but it can be a challenge to manage in the three-quarter stage. We need to negotiate where we want to go.”
That’s a part of our problem. One of us is ready to downsize and travel, the other is thinking of putting down roots to be closer to grandchildren.
But there’s more to the dilemma than just “what should we do next?” says Dan McKinnon, a Calgary psychologist who specializes in “existential” issues for the bifocal set and helping people who are “stuck get unstuck.” He says this may very well be the most challenging of all the life crises.
McKinnon points to pioneering psychologist Erik Erickson’s Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development, whose theory attempts to explain conflicts of every age and stage.
Sounds like Doug and I are in lock-step with the eight steps.
In Erickson’s model the second last of the eight stages is generativity vs. stagnation. Generativity is about leaving a legacy — the person who wants to be closer to their grandchildren. Whereas, the urge to downsize and travel could fall into the integrity vs. despair category. “Did we live the life we wanted? Has it been filled with authenticity?” McKinnon says.
Unlike the two previous quarter-life and mid-life crises, this one has added complications.
“There is an urgency. Even though we have a quarter left, it’s not like having three-quarters left.”
McKinnon says, many of us are thinking: “The ceiling of life is getting closer so I better get busy and find what’s meaningful for myself.”
It’s like déjà vu, he says. “We become like teenagers again — asking philosophical questions.”
Except with another added complication. Less hair, more wrinkles, a few extra pounds and creaky joints.
Though many boomers will live longer, the speed at which the sand is running through the hourglass is the crux of the threequarter-life crisis. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Even though medical science says many of us in our 50s and 60s could live for another 20 or even 30 years, it seems like not enough.
Lee Ann Wiseman, a retired nurse, feels that pressure.
“It came into focus when I turned 60. When I realized that, as much as nobody wants to admit it, you’re on the back nine. Looking down the road, where do I want to be?”
For some people that may beg the question “what have I done with my life” anyway, which is often not without a tinge or a ton of regret.
Not for Wiseman, who had a fulfilling nursing career. She’s not looking back, only forward. “When else do you get to indulge yourself in what you want to do? It’s my time. When else are you going to get your time to do what works best for you.”
The angst is in finding the right location and making sure you’re comfortable. And, it will unfold.”
And, that’s exactly what Zabrodski said to us at the end of our appointment. In a word, what will be, will be and when the time comes you’ll make the right decision.
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