…though not as business folk would recognise it. We are talking here about the Late Life Predicament.
The what? Well, it’s that point in life we all get to following on from education and perhaps a long and fruitful career. Some people may have also experienced the adventure (and that’s probably the correct word!) of coupling and going through the travails of bringing up a family. Now that these two major parts of our lives have been completed (or are nearing an end), and the midlife crisis(es) and menopause navigated, two new questions arise.
What are my future goals and purpose, and where do I go now?
Workwise, these questions can be precipitated by feelings of complete career achievement, maximum personal development and quite possibly financial stability. There can be a combination of exhaustion, weariness, accumulated stress, lack of challenge, boredom and perhaps cynicism. Specific experiences of bullying, discrimination, or ageism may also have been encountered. A yearning for something completely new, professionally, can also emerge.
In our private lives too, the changing nature of, and pressures within, relationships can also contribute to unease. We may not love, or feel as loved by, our partners as we once did. Time, circumstances (e.g. empty nest syndrome), reassessments, past covered-up hurts, loneliness are factors, as is boredom in all aspects.
Health also plays a major role at this point. The big five ailments, and others, often seem to rear their ugly heads, as do cognitive concerns and perhaps sexual ones. Our brains and bodies just do not work as effectively, predictably or enjoyably as they used to. Reminders of our own mortality, and that of others, also appear more frequently and painfully.
An upshot of all this turbulence is that it can be a deeply confusing and unsettling time, regardless of gender, race, religion, class or individual circumstances. A wider existential crisis can also take hold – why am I now here, what meaning is there in life?
It can also precipitate powerful emotions such as anxiety (why so much uncertainty?), hurt (why did it happen?), envy and regret (coulda, shoulda, woulda). The dilemmas appear, disappear and re-appear like the heads of the mythical hydra. Depression can all too often set in when faced with the complexity of it all.
Whilst the LLP happens, it’s not all doom and gloom. It can be an opportunity to expand oneself into stimulating or important things that time pressures had thwarted hitherto. Volunteering, travelling, socialising more, new hobbies, expanding culturally and spiritually, spending days on the golf course or even playing with puppies. A new second career might even open up!
The LLP may be more than a crossroads in our lives – it can be a huge roundabout with multiple exits and no map on how to navigate. However, remaining positive, being grateful for what we have and talking things through openly with loved ones helps enormously. Working with specialists who can help navigate the emotional aspects may also prove beneficial.
Whilst this stage in life is indeed a predicament of the highest order, it can certainly be navigated.