Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why "Muddling?"

   So I had a hard time coming up with a name for my blog, but I knew I wanted the focus to be on midlife, and after poring through the dictionary, I came to the conclusion there aren't that many verbs that start with "m." "Mastering" was another option, but I don't want to come across as cocky. Especially when I feel like I don't know what I'm doing 60 percent of the time.
   No, "muddling" felt right. It kind of feels like a synonym for "putzing," or "wandering." Plus it is a verb you use to describe crushing the mint and sugar, with a wooden muddler, while making a mojito.
   I actually own a muddler and have tried it out--you slowly grind the the sugar crystals against the mint, which gets bruised and releases the mint oils. You use slow motions and it takes a long time and I keep taking breaks, looking at the bottom of the bowl or glass and wondering "am I getting anywhere with this?"
   My husband Josh and I went to Puerto Rico once and our hotel had a rooftop mojito party our first night there. I watched as the woman made a giant batch of mojitos, enough to keep a dozen hotel guests fueled for the next three hours, and I was extremely interested in seeing how she would muddle so much mint since it takes so long for me just to make enough for two drinks at a time. And I discovered her secret: patience.
   I thought all of this applied quite well to midlife, with my six years of experience in it thus far. An older friend described it to me when I was 25, having what pop culture calls the quarter-life crisis, as an adjustment of life pace that happens after college. The first 22 years of your life have such rapid growth and clearly defined goals and accomplishments, like moving up a grade each year, graduating from each level of education, getting your driver's license, gaining the ability to vote, the ability to buy alcohol--there's something to celebrate every year. Plus you get summer vacations!
   Then as an adult, you start your career and if you're lucky, you have job security at a good place and you stay there. And while there may be projects that you start and finish, for the most part, it all still feels like work. The accomplishments and accolades severely slow down from the pace that we are used to receiving. And worst of all, you don't get three months off to recuperate each year, unless you are a teacher.
   So then it can feel like time stands still. Or that it is zooming past you while you stand still. Funny how that works.
   I'm not saying this because I hate my job--I think I'm on that sinusoidal wave of satisfaction and unsatisfaction with my job that most adults go through. I'm a journalist at a daily county newspaper and I've covered the same beat for 9 years. While the daily grind can get to me, and the stress of deadlines, the truth is my job gives me so much freedom to pursue subjects that interest me, to take part in experiences I would never otherwise have the opportunity to do, and learn about an extremely wide range of topics from first hand sources. Not to mention I live a mile from my office, am granted a certain amount of liberty to work from home, and have been senior reporter for the past six years. But sometimes those years feel very, very long.
   Of course not everyone out there chooses to stay at the first job they get out of college. Or the second. Or the third. A lot of people choose to go back to school. I don't know what that path feels like. But I think that part of that continuous mobility stems from the same things that I'm talking about--that little urge that wonders "what's next?"
   And that's why I started writing on this topic. In my list of goals that I developed as a result of turning 31 this year, I decided it was time to pursue some of those "what's next" goals. Stay tuned for more.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Am I just morbid?

   So as I said in my bio, I think you should consider yourself middle aged at 25. A little web research on this shows that the U.S. Census considers middle aged to be between 35 to 50, and dictionaries often say between 40 and 65, but I think that's way too optimistic.
   The life expectancy is 73 for people born in 1980, (which I think is the awesomest year because since the year 2000, you can always figure out my age by adding the first two digits of the year to the second two: 2011 is 20+11=31 -- how cool is that?).
   They say life expectancy has been going up, so that children born now should live to 78, on average, but I'm not buying it. How many people do you know with cancer, or who have died from cancer? And these aren't just people in their 70s or 80s, there are children dying from cancer and brain tumors, people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s... does anybody make it over 75 these days? How can that still be the average? I just don't believe it. Or rather, I'm not counting on it. As I've said before, I won't be surprised if I get cancer, it almost seems a given for my generation; the surprise will be in which body part turned against me.
   But on to lighter thoughts, I don't know why people have such a negative association with being middle aged. It's as if there is only "youth" and "old age," and middle aged must be under "old age" because it certainly isn't under "youth." That's why I'm promoting people to embrace a defined midlife stage. I know, it's difficult. We know what youth was like, and we have an idea, or at least a dream, of what old age will be like (I'm guessing any retirement scenario, particularly one that includes relocating to somewhere warm in the winter, has to be classified as a dream these days), but the goals and expectations for that middle part of life aren't so well defined.
   After some serious reflection in the past year, I've decided to make a greater effort to set goals, and reflect on my progress, during midlife. This blog is one of my first steps! I hope you enjoy reading about my journey and learn from my experiences. Hollah if you're over 25!