By chance I recently came across this article, The New Midlife Crisis, and I want to share what was my vulnerable and uncanny reaction to it. The article describes in detail the ways our current society is set up to fail and torment women of the age bracket a generation older than me (a bracket that will undoubtedly creep up quicker than expected... who else remembers the year 2005 like it was yesterday?). Between a failing economy and failing relationship culture, both of which are rife with sexism and ageism, prospects for women facing midlife are nightmarishly bleak. This article depicts an outcome that I've only imagined during the worst of bad hallucinogenic trips, like a Ghost of Christmas Future shell-shocking me with the gloomy consequences of a terrible existence. Initially when I finished reading it, I shrugged and thought, "That's not the reality that I'm creating. That's not the reality that I will have to face when I'm that age."
It was tempting for me to give in to the pull of the weight of the accurate unfairness that the author described. Yes, so much is stacked against us. Yes, capitalism is a huge problem. Yes, sexism is a thousand-headed hydra that shows up in every facet of our lives. However, I'm certain that I'm very privileged in many ways. So when I read this I thought, "That's not going to be me. I may have a lot of work ahead, but my hope is stronger than my fear."
The older I get, the better my life gets. The more shit I hack, the more I understand, the more I am aware, the more I claim the power that was my birthright. As I get older, I'm happier with my body aesthetics than ever (and I am actually faster and stronger today than when I was a competitive D-1 college athlete). I'm happier and more confident than ever with my looks ("Oh snap, I have amazing cheekbones! And how is maintaining my weight more effortless now than it was when I was 19?!"). I'm happier and more confident than ever in my intellectual capacity and aptitude to pursue my lofty ambitions, in reveling in my beauty and sexuality, in the woman who I have become and am becoming - having eliminated toxic self-doubt and dispelling insecurities that categorically plague most women. I've organically ended up in circles where older, accomplished females are valued to a greater extent than they are in the median of society - circles that are generally more accessible by those with my levels of education, work experience and hustler background. But how did I know to seek places where I'd find this kind of comfort? What inner guidance caused me to shift paradigms in ways that would serve my happiness? Suffice to say, I'm probably going through a bit of a quarter-life crisis right now. But it's more of a quarter-life transformation, since it's only a crisis if I fight the change. Life showed up earlier this year with a serious message of "cut the bullshit and get to work." I have zero doubt that I will succeed and reach my goals, even if at times I'm completely exhausted, ready to throw in the towel, or can't seem to thoroughly visualize the ultimate objective just yet. Why? Well, I've gotten this far. The worst is probably over, right? I turned inward and found 'X' marks the spot, and now I just have to keep digging. Indeed I will face obstacles, but I have no qualms about failing. I fail everyday at something, big or little. Failure opens the door for reflection and improvement. Yes, initially I felt fear reading this piece. But the fear was "Should I be afraid?" Then the rational voice in me said, "No, that's not what you're choosing."
I sincerely hope that that doesn't make me sound like a naive jackass (in the interest of full disclosure though: I have never been accused of being naive about anything). For what it's worth, I went through a lot of tough times growing up poor and deprived, with enough hard-knocks for someone twice my age. So, perhaps, I just endured the majority of pivotal life lessons early on. To me, avoiding a fem-pocalypse like the one described in the article strikes me as a process of embodiment; of learning to mindfully inhabit your body so that you can achieve the intuitive emotional mastery that will give you the power of discernment. That is, the ability of choosing between what feels good and what doesn't feel good. At the risk of sounding like I only have a hammer so everything looks like a nail, that means that this process is about self-discovery, self-awareness and as a result, self-love.
For example, consider that perhaps my relationship with my sexuality is better because I've had my share of diverse experiences, experimenting with what's gratifying, what isn't, and sharpening my sensitivity to what I like and what I don't like. Consider that my ability to empathize with the disenfranchised is better because I have faced that particular frustration firsthand and can personally understand the perspective of those who struggle with that reality daily. Consider that my relationship to my self image is better because time has taught me that a great life is truly necessitated by embracing my flaws (loving them, even) and highlighting my strengths instead of dissecting my shortcomings. Consider that I have set an intention to heal, and now I feel better.
Are the odds fair? Nope. Is society setting us up to succeed? Yeah, right. Are there myriad inequities that intersect in ways that make this process easier for some than for others? Of course. Will it ever be NOT difficult for someone like me, a confident Asian woman with superior ambition, to navigate the choppy waters of a pervasively male-dominated and xenophobic status quo? Fuck no... anyone else believe that regressing back to a so-called “dystopia” depicted in Handmaid’s Tale is a plausible reality? But I digress. All those irrational (or rational) fears aside, at my core I'm a perpetual optimist. Age, years, and the by-product wisdom will provide better guidance on how to address any gendered crisis that may come. I have always believed that a woman is like a fine wine; her unique color becomes brighter and her flavor sweeter with time... and evidence to that firm conclusion comes from my own intimate, diverse experiences with older women ;).