Don’t Find Your Passion at the Expense of Losing Your People.
What NOT to do during midlife transition.
Midlife found me in a major funk. Not the kind that can be measured in weeks, months, or years. More like sighs, screams, and blank stares. I totally lost my passion, was unmotivated, and dissatisfied.
Dissatisfaction turned to anger. Anger to depression. And depression to a serious wake-up call that I needed regain control of things before I went off a cliff.
I was not pleasant to be around or live with. But the truth is, no one hated being around me more than me.
Midlife Transition Confusion
The overarching impetus behind my malaise was the slow and painful death of a twenty-year dream. A career path that I’d given two decades of my adult life to had come to an unceremonious and indifferent end.
I didn’t see it coming and had no idea how to handle it.
With this lifelong pursuit off the table, I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I found myself completely lost.
The painful irony was that I had a lot to be excited and joyful and fulfilled about. I had a great marriage, three beautiful children, and a stable job.
Despite this, however, I allowed “losing my passion” to poison the well that fed the other areas of my life. Inevitably my marriage and fatherhood began to feel the ill effects.
In hindsight, my behavior closely resembled that of a petulant child, but seasons of emotional turmoil have a way of bringing out the worst in us. And a lot of bad had to be flushed out of me before the water began to flow clear again.
I’m thankful that it eventually did.
Now that I’m better, I suppose this article could be a highlight reel of how I got that way. I could outline a clean, linear path to rediscovering one’s passion, getting emotionally healthy, and becoming the parent of the year.
It also might be helpful if I showed you the technique of following the breadcrumbs life plants for you that lead to you midlife calling. I could use the personal example of how teaching English, starting a blog, and writing for magazines did so for me.
I’m sure I could help you out by explaining how to pull back the curtain of your subconscious and face your shadow self that’s been undermining you since childhood. Perhaps after hearing how much counseling has helped me you might decide to start doing the same.
Yes, all of that might be helpful.
But I have no interest in helping. It’s saving you that I’m after.
Because seasons like this are not about nuance or spreadsheets or go-find-yourself retreats. It’s about survival.
It’s about not making that big mistake that fatigue keeps tempting you with.
The throes of midlife transition is like walking barefoot on a bed of coals as you carry a jar brimming with nitroglycerin.
Tread lightly. Take care. Don’t blow yourself up.
Surviving midlife transition requires you to believe that sometimes the best move is to stand still. And the best action is to wait.
In short, rediscovering your passion is not so much what you what you need to do to find yourself as much as it is what you should NOT do to ruin yourself.
So throw out your To Do list and start another one. At the top write: To-NOT-Do
Here are a few things that I eventually checked off mine.
What I Didn’t Do to Rediscover My Passion
- I didn’t move far away from family and friends who knew me well enough to hold me accountable for my erratic behavior.
- I didn’t exchange my spouse for a different model, deeming our first thirteen years and three children together as something that could be replaced as easily as a set of tires.
- I didn’t numb the pain with drugs, alcohol, or other addictive habits and commit Victor Frankenstein in the process.
- I didn’t sink myself into debt by purchasing something expensive that I would grow to hate once the shine wore off.
- I didn’t burn bridges by saying everything I was feeling toward people whom I blamed for my pain.
Let me be clear. I in no way comported myself flawlessly during this season. In fact, I made many mistakes as life agonizingly peeled back the bandage on my wounded soul.
Really, the only thing I did right was not blow myself up.
And that’s my point.
Your Passion is Not THAT Important
Too often, mid-lifers burn their relationships on the altar of sacrifice in hopes that the gods will give them their passion in return.
Your passion isn’t worth that.
What good is finding your passion if you have no one with whom to share it?
Focus on your people first. This gives you a shot at having both.
Because as popular as it is to write about finding your passion, sometimes your passion just has to find you.
I believe yours will.
And when it does, may it find you with the best parts of you still intact.
Originally published at www.jathanscotte.com on August 22, 2017.