Crisis [Not] Averted: The Effects of MidCrisom

Carl Weathers sits at his desk in his average-sized office. He stares at the neutral-tone walls as his average-sized frame rests in an average-sized desk chair of average comfort. He sighs once, and swivels his attention to the 3×5 picture of his family sitting on his desk in a plain brown frame. An average family, with the husband and wife smiling, one arm around their son and daughter and one around each other. The daughter, the eldest, looks slightly less enthused to be there: her smile is strained, as if thinking, “I can only stand to be with these people for the amount of time it takes to take one more picture. Then I’m out of here.” The son, too young to be able to focus on a single activity for any drawn-out period of time, stares off in a different direction than that of the camera lens, captivated by something out of the frame.

Carl Weathers stares intently at the picture for a long time, until the people blur into one large mass in the middle of the frame. He wonders, not for the first time, how he arrived at this specific point in time. How did he end up with a family, with this family? Not that he didn’t want a family. He loved them dearly. It was just…he hadn’t accomplished what he thought he would have with his life by now. At 20, he had believed he would one day be a youthful yet respected gentleman, revered by colleagues and direct reports for his accomplishments at the ripe old age of 40. Now, at 45, he was yet to reach that caliber in his field. He was beginning to wonder, would he ever? He had always felt like his life would stretch on indefinitely, and only when he had finally been as successful as he’d wanted to be, when he’d finally made an impact on the world, would it end peacefully, while he was sleeping. Instead, he was still being passed over for promotions; it was like he didn’t even matter—like if he didn’t exist, the world would be the same place it was today.

This was not the first time Carl Weathers had thought about this. In fact, he had been thinking about the purpose of his life rather frequently ever since his mother had passed away two months ago. He wondered if anyone else felt this way; if he had anyone who felt the same way he did. His wife, Mary, didn’t seem to be much happier with her life—but then again, she seemed to be more exhausted than unhappy. Between her job, managing the kids’ lives, and running the household, she ran on little sleep and was often extremely stressed by the amount she needed to accomplish in the 20 short hours she was awake every day. Carl knew this because Mary did not hesitate to vocalize her feelings. Still, at the end of the day she seemed satisfied with her life, and found what she did to be fulfilling, even if it was the source of extreme stress in the moment. What he felt wasn’t stress—it was as if he was trying to hold onto something that was slipping out of his hands faster than he could think grasp at it.

Flash forward six months, and Carl appears to be a completely different person. The conservative, relaxed-fit suits and sensible loafers have been replaced with trendier attire. Now, Carl is only seen in skinny ties, pointy brogues, and trendier, fitted pants and jackets better suited for the body of a 25-year-old model than a slightly overweight middle-aged father. He’s changed jobs twice, claiming to be searching for ‘a career he is passionate about and finds fulfilling’. He often comes home well after midnight, claiming to be swamped with work but smelling like booze and women’s perfume. If she had the energy, his wife, Mary, would say something. She would worry more about their relationship and the future of their family. But she doesn’t. She hopes that it’s just a phase, and that he’ll come back to his senses and go back to being his old self.

What Carl Weathers exhibits is a classic example of MidCrisom. MidCrisom is a type of boredom that can lay dormant in a person for years, silently developing until one day it rears its ugly head in the form of what society deems a ‘midlife crisis’. There are specific criteria that must be met in order to classify a type of boredom ‘MidCrisom’ or an event or series of events a result of MidCrisom, and there is a very specific process that those afflicted with it go through.  

  • MidCrisom is the type of boredom one feels before entering the stage of one’s life called the ‘midlife crisis.’ It is a type of profound boredom, which is defined by Heidegger, a German philosopher, as “being bored by boredom itself.” MidCrisom is the specific type of profound boredom that leads to the onset of a midlife crisis. A midlife crisis is when adults come to realize their own mortality and how much time is left in their lives (Elliott Jaques, 1965). Midlife crises occur because one wants to go back to a time when his or her life was full of possibility and meaning, instead of coming to terms with the realization that his or her life has been unproductive and pointless. This realization is catalyzed by the boredom that the individual feels with being bored by the events in his or her life thus far. The feeling that one’s existence is pointless is a large part of profound boredom, so dealing with MidCrisom is ultimately dealing with this ‘problem of boredom’ in one’s life.
  • MidCrisom affects individuals between the ages of 40-60, or when one’s life is about halfway over. It tends to last longer in men than in women, from 4-10 years in men compared to 2-5 years in women. This is because men tend to vocalize their feelings less frequently than women do. Not addressing the problem of MidCrisom only makes its effects worse. Since women talk about their problems more, they are more likely to come to terms with MidCrisom and find a coping mechanism.
  • In order for MidCrisom to manifest itself in the form of a midlife crisis, a specific trigger event must occur. First, the individual becomes aware of his or her mortality. This could happen when one finds him- or herself bored by the boredom caused by his or her routine, due to the repetition of activities that one is not interested in, nor caring about the outcome of said activities. This is an important distinction, because activities where its outcome is more important than the boredom caused by that activity do not lead to MidCrisom. MidCrisom starts to develop into a midlife crisis when the individual is more affected by the boredom caused by the activity than its result, or gets nothing out of the activity and its result. This leads the individual to question why he or she continues to participate in these activities and reflect on what he or she has accomplished during his or life so far. The aging of those around the individual, such as his or her children or even the death of a parent or loved one, can also trigger MidCrisom. Either one of these events lead to the individual’s awareness of his or her’s mortality and the realization that one has not accomplished what he or she wanted to during his or her youth, leading to the questioning of one’s purpose in life.
  • Next, the individual experiences the side effects of MidCrisom. The most prevalent side effects are adultery, the Aesthetic Revolution, and living vicariously through children or the youths in the individual’s life. All of these side effects of MidCrisom are only temporary, shallow escapes from the thought of one’s life being meaningless. Adultery provides a temporary escape from the mundane married life in which the individual afflicted with MidCrisom can feel some new type of emotion, or feel anything at all. The Aesthetic Revolution is when one completely changes his or her appearance, usually to a trendier image to feel more youthful. It involves complete wardrobe, hair, and accessory makeovers. It often also involves the individual trying to incorporate contemporary slang into every day conversation. The Aesthetic Revolution, too, is a temporary fix, and can easily be changed or reverted back to the individual’s presentation pre-MidCrisom. The individual may even put pressure on the youth closest to them to act in a certain way or participate in certain activities in order to live vicariously through them. All of these side effects are due to the individual’s denial that his or her life is meaningless, and are attempts to feel like he or she has regained the youthful ignorance of life’s meaninglessness.
  • MidCrisom is a fairly new concept. It has only been recently defined, dating back only to the 1950s. There is not much research that has been conducted on MidCrisom, so there are many false conclusions that have made their way into society. The most common misconception is that it mainly afflicts western countries, due to their “culture of youth”.  This is the mentality of valuing the aesthetics of youth more than the wisdom that most often comes with age. Instead of embracing the process of aging and viewing it as a sign of maturity and greater wisdom, many westerners panic at the first sight of any wrinkles around their eyes. Even though this culture of youth is more prevalent in western countries, it is not the cause of MidCrisom. MidCrisom may seem shallow due to its shallow side effects, but underneath the Aesthetic Revolution lies a deeper, more existentialistic problem: it is one’s struggle to come to terms with the meaninglessness of one’s life.
  • MidCrisom is not to be confused with MidStressom. MidStressom is a boredom that arises around the same time as MidCrisom in one’s life, which is why the two are often confused. However, MidStressom is not a feeling of a lack of something, but rather a feeling of being overwhelmed by one’s responsibilities. For example, Carl Weather’s wife Mary was feeling MidStressom. She experienced feelings of unhappiness similar to those of Carl’s, but instead of questioning her life’s purpose, she accepted the tasks that she needed to accomplish and, in the end, was satisfied by the outcomes. Midstressom is anxiety or boredom during the activities, and may lead to some questioning of why one is participating in the stress-causing activities, but ultimately feels satisfied with their results. With MidCrisom, the individual just feels empty and pointless.
  • MidCrisom does not lead to a self-realization. The side effects of MidCrisom lead to a fake one that is simply a cry for help. A true self-realization is when one finds a specific problem with one aspect of his or her life and changes it once. A fake self-realization, which is caused by MidCrisom, is when people half-heartedly change many different aspects of their lives—for example, trying many different occupations rather than switching jobs once, getting a divorce as opposed to having one or more affairs, or even getting a haircut versus going through an Aesthetic Revolution.  A MidCrisomistic fake-realization is more akin to aimless wandering, stopping to dabble in many different things, whereas a true self-realization is a purposeful movement towards a specific destination with a clear goal. It is as if a revolution inside the individual has started and cannot be stopped until the objective is reached. The aimless aspect of MidCrisom is due to desperation the individual feels for any type of feeling that his or life has meaning or purpose.
  • The consequences of MidCrisom could lead to very dire situations in an individual’s life. The questioning of one’s existence could lead to negative or even destructive outcomes, many of which could end in self-ruination (either of mind or body, or both). However, all hope is not lost for an afflicted individual. Most people come back to their lives pre-MidCrisom after coming to terms with the fact that they will not accomplish everything.

There is no known cure for MidCrisom. Not much research has been done on MidCrisom, as it is a fairly new concept. It took many years for researchers to even identify and categorize MidCrisom, so it could be many years before any there are any breakthroughs in MidCrisom research. As of now, it just needs to be waited out. One must go through the complete MidCrisomistic cycle, from the realization of mortality to the Aesthetic Revolution, and then must decide where to go from there. The best coping mechanism known to man is the acceptance that one’s life is meaningless, and that one will not necessarily accomplish everything he or she set out to accomplish at a young age. The worst way that an individual could attempt to rid him- or herself of MidCrisom is to fight it. Like tar, the harder one tries to fight it, the more it pulls him or her in, and the more detrimental the effects will be on the individual. There is only one factor that dictates the ultimate outcome of MidCrisom: the mentality of the individual. One must decide how to let it affect him or her, and, consequently, the rest of his or her life.

 

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