Midlife crisis or epiphany?
I turn 45 next week. I am not exactly in denial about it, but I do keep forgetting that it will be happening. I do not know if it is my rapidly advancing age or the pandemic making birthdays matter less to me. Maybe the fact I have already experienced 44 birthdays is the source of my ambivalence. They are not a novelty anymore.
In English Law, there is such a thing as an appropriate adult. They are typically a parent, guardian, or social worker, but should they be unavailable they can be anyone deemed responsible over the age of 18. I frequently find myself looking for somebody more adult than me. What is scary is that in most instances, that is not hard to do. The average toddler is more adult than me.
I am not certain if I have had, or will ever have, a midlife crisis. I am not even certain they exist. I do know that at times, it feels like my life is in a constant state of flux and maybe that is the same thing, but I just never had a name for it.
According to Ada Calhoun, the Gen X female midlife crisis is problematic. Women from that generation, women in my “box”, were mis-sold the notion of “having it all”. It did appear to me, from reading about my generation, that this middle-class specific midlife crisis does not apply to me as a working-class woman. I was never expected to have anything so why would I be worried about not having it all? My mother used to tell me that money buys you a better class of misery. Perhaps she was a prophet.
If I am to make the assumptions that my experiences are not excluded from the conversation because of my less than auspicious beginnings, there must be something to learn from them.
I chose my University by closing my eyes and pointing. I feel lucky that my unspectacular grades due to lack of education and undiagnosed dyslexia never really held me back. You could argue that I could have been “somebody”, whatever that means, if I had done better at School. I suppose the secret to making peace with the past sits with the understanding that academic excellence does not necessarily equate to success. I spent the afternoon reading applications for my old job due to my promotion. One thing I noticed was that while many of the applicants were highly qualified most could not construct a coherent letter of application. It was mystifying, depressing even. Then I realised that with maturity comes compassion. Life is hard.
I have experienced promising career trajectories and career slumps. I recently dropped several levels to climb back up. I left a job in London with a long, expensive commute and a manager who was a creep. That meant I had to start again locally, and it has been difficult, but progress is not always linear. Progress is showing courage in the face of adversity and integrity when faced with a world full of narcissists. When I compare what I believe a successful 45-year-old should have to what I have, it does not seem like I have achieved much but I have lived my life on my own terms, and you cannot put a price tag on that.
I spent periods of time disrobing on webcam for money from the age of 38 and continued intermittently until I was around 43. I reserve the right to do that again, should I need to find money to survive. When I started I had never even so much as taken a selfie before. Nothing teaches you about branding more quickly than webcamming, they are the true marketing experts. The original entrepreneurs. I have the utmost respect for what they do, and always will.
I learned a lot about beauty, vanity, and sex from webcamming, particularly how the ideals do not match reality. What my customers really found attractive was far removed from the messages I received from the media about what I should be striving for. It was almost revelatory. I also learned that when you are effectively being paid to star in your own show, you do not need to be the centre of attention anywhere else. Walking to the shop with unbrushed hair and no make-up never bothers me since I worked as a webcam girl because I am “off duty”. I was not posing up a storm on Instagram and Facebook, either. I did not need the validation because I knew that the criteria on which that validation was based, was a fallacy. I had nothing, and no one, to compete with, and that is a blessing.
Perhaps we Gen Xers have a tougher time than most, but we know that we were fed fiction rather than fact. Those that came after us are learning that fiction is much harder to tell from fact. There was no widespread use of Photoshop in my 20s, and there was no expectation that we would all be picture-perfect. Models were models, and we were not expected to look like one. We were not pressured to wax our bodies until they are hairless like a child or have false eyelashes so heavy, we can barely keep our eyes open. I have never worried about “plumping” my pout and never felt the need to consider having procedures to achieve what I was not born with. We had no social media documenting our every mistake. I partied a lot and the only photos that exist, are minimal, old school, and tame by 2021 standards.
We got to experience how it felt to be totally free, and a hard time in my forties is a small price to pay for that.