When am I middle-aged?

So, when exactly am I middle-aged?

Joe – Ohio

Dear Joe,

I have a suspicion that you’re in one of two places: either you’re afraid of your pending middle age or you’re in denial that they’ve already arrived.  

You’re not alone. In our 30’s we like to think that we’ll hit middle age somewhere in our 40’s. When we hit our 40’s we like to think that it’ll be in our 50’s. In our 50’s, many of us deny that our middle ages will ever come.  

But there’s always math. Have a look at the SSA life expectancy tables.  

If, for instance, you are 35 years old, the math guys tell you that you’ll live another 43.14 years, meaning that you’ll be taking your last breath when you’re 78.14 years old. That would mean that your midpoint (age at death divided by two) would be 39. Give yourself ten percent on either side of that number and you’re looking at your middle ages running from 35 to 43. In your case, you’ve already arrived at your middle age.  

But don’t lose heart. Now that I am firmly in my middle ages, I realize that it isn’t about specific years. Somewhere in your 40s and 50s is fair. Just don’t be deluded by thinking that if you celebrate your middle ages until you’re 59 that you’re going to live to be 118.  

I’d like to answer your question in more existential terms. Your middle ages begin when you’re willing to admit that you may have lived more days than the ones awaiting you.  

Some men face this and respond by making foolish decisions – think red sports car and receptionist. Others of us take these years as an opportunity to flourish. Think of what we have now that we didn’t have a couple of decades ago: free time, experience, money, and wisdom. Do any women of substance care about grey hair or male-pattern baldness? Does it matter at all that we can no longer run sub 6-minute miles?  

Joe, when it comes to our middle ages there is one reality and we have two choices. The reality is that our middle ages exist – it’s a matter of mathematics. And from that point you have two choices: deny it or embrace it. These are the days for us to pause, reconsider, and move forward.  

Chop That Wood

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