Is A Mid-Life “Crisis” A Bad Thing?

A few days ago a friend casually dropped it into conversation that he considered me “middle-aged”. After several long moments of re-considering my friendship with him (kidding) I realized he wasn’t actually wrong when you look at the logic and math of it. Last September I turned 40 and given that average life expectancy in Canada in 2012 was 81.24 years I am technically in the middle of my life. Is “middle-aged” something I have ever considered myself? No, of course not. When I think of how I viewed a 40-year-old in my childhood it seemed they were on the downward slope of life and yet here I am, at the big four-oh and feeling no more of an adult than I did at 21.

Or am I? Lots of things have changed for me in the past couple of years. Anyone who knows me well knows I struggle with anxiety and depression which became something I had to deal with two years ago as it started to control my life. With medication and unwavering support from friends and family I re-discovered myself and started making choices that would help me get myself on a track to happiness. Some of that was physical, some emotional, there were lots of hard choices to make, some scary decisions, but things started to turn around and I’m frankly a little astounded at where I am today.

One of the hardest things to change in my life was my career path. I’ve been passionate about traveling for as long as I can remember, having taken my first trip overseas at the age of 3 and not even thinking twice when I left school about starting a career as a travel agent. And for more than two decades sharing my passion for exploring the world made me happy. Or so I thought. Once I had a healthy mind I started to question if the job was making me happy or I was happy with the status quo. I had literally known nothing else since I was 16 and I’ve never been comfortable with change. But everything else was changing, I’d started removing some more toxic relationships in my life and suddenly I realized my career was one of them. In the past I’d explored new jobs and never felt like anything would make me take the plunge, convinced my reluctance was about love for the job. Suddenly I wondered if it was fear. Fear of failure; fear of the unknown; fear of starting at the bottom once again. It entered my mind last summer that maybe just looking wouldn’t hurt. An idea started to formulate.

Next up was my living arrangements. My sister, Kerry, and I had been renting apartments since we moved to Canada 17 years ago and we’d convinced ourselves it was the most logical course of action. We didn’t plan on living together forever, we wanted to save money, we didn’t have enough saved for a deposit. The excuses came thick and fast. Our cheap rent was a trade-off for frankly, a crappy apartment with a useless landlord. Cracks in the walls, a rampant mouse problem (thank goodness our cat took great pleasure in helping us with that) and neighbors who let their dogs poop in the hallways were just catalysts for my stress levels and we were constantly looking for something else. Because of restrictions on animals in rented apartments (don’t get me started on that subject) we knew our rent was going to increase by at least half and after several years of looking and getting disappointed I decided to look on a realtor website, you know, just for shits and giggles. I sent a listing to my sister, stating “hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we could afford this, I’ve kinda fallen in love with it. Damn banks would never give us a mortgage though.” Or would they? We thought it couldn’t hurt to ask, so we did. And less than 6 weeks later we took possession of our very own condo and were suddenly budgeting for grown up things like mortgage payments and strata maintenance fees.

Meanwhile I’d had an interview for a job I was really interested in. Part of my job in travel had always involved insurance and I was strangely intrigued by the concept. Suddenly I was being offered a job at an insurance company who offered me decent pay, a fantastic location in downtown Vancouver and promises of support for any advancement I was interested in. My decision to accept the position was an easy one, something I never thought I’d experience and mid-January I found myself saying goodbye to the only job I’d ever known, a 24 year career. Four months in and I can’t believe how happy I am. The people I work with are wonderful, the support and encouragement I receive from my peers and management are unprecedented for me and every day I come home knowing I made the right decision, however terrifying and difficult it was.

The final piece of the puzzle, though, is me, and I’m working hard on myself. Earlier this year I had a wake-up call when I was told I was considered pre-diabetes, a completely reversible situation but if I didn’t change my diet and exercise habits I would be a diabetic patient and things would become more difficult. For years I’ve made excuses for my poor diet and focusing on my mental health has been the biggest one. Well enough has changed for me now to not be able to use that any more and I’ve been eating healthier in the past month than I ever have. Cutting out the majority of carbs, although not completely, has been the hardest part (man, I miss pasta!) but Kerry has been there with me every step and we now find ourselves choosing to eat healthily , even on weekends. When we slip up or have a night out and forget the diet we don’t find ourselves saying “to hell with it, we slipped, we may as well give up.” I’ve managed to drop almost 15lbs in the past 6 weeks and I feel so great, physically and mentally. I still have some work to do but the biggest challenge is changing habits and I’ve had huge success there.

So there we have it. Within 8 months of turning 40 I’ve purchased my first home, changed careers and become a bit of a nut about healthy eating. Life is amazing and I’ve astounded myself with overcoming my fear of change and failure. Maybe this is a “mid-life crisis”. Maybe it’s just my response to a series of wake-up calls over the past few years. Whatever it happens to be, my 40s are shaping up to be the best decade of my life; I’ll take it.

Fable Kitchen: Farm To Table At Its Finest

I’m lucky enough to live in Vancouver for many reasons, not least of which is the incredible culinary culture. It’s no secret that I like food and the diversity of my city allows for a seemingly unending variety when it comes to dining choices.

A few weeks ago a friend and I decided to try Fable Kitchen, a reasonably new farm to table experience on W4th Avenue in Kitsilano. While competing on Top Chef Canada, Trevor Bird created Fable as a concept for the infamous “restaurant wars” week and upon returning home to Vancouver started the process of bringing his vision to life. Sourcing local fare from Vancouver’s vast resources, Bird and front of house partner Ron MacGillivray set about building a dining experience they could be proud of.

Fable has embraced modern culture and as such encourages reservations on their social media outlets. Having struck out trying to get a reservation by phone I reached out on Twitter and was soon promised my friend and I had seats at the chef’s table (a bar-like experience at the front of the restaurant overlooking the busy, open-plan kitchen). However, on arrival there was no record of our reservation and, as apologetic and friendly as the front-of-house staff were, we ended up walking away a little disappointed to an alternative dining option.

Here’s the thing; mistakes happen. Everyone is human, things get away from us and errors are made. The way I gauge these situations is by how they are handled and I can honestly say I don’t know if I’ve ever been more impressed by an organization. Upon a DM expressing my disappointment I was immediately contacted by owner/manager Kathy Schleyer, taking ownership of the error – she had booked us in for the wrong day – and apologizing profusely, expressing her embarrassment over the error. She invited us to please consider returning and she would make the reservation herself. We were excited to eat at Fable so my friend and I made plans to meet there this past Friday and this time our table was booked!

You couldn’t be blamed if you walked past Fable on first attempt to find it. A small store front with an unassuming awning, the restaurant’s lack of pretentiousness starts from the minute you step inside. It was a busy Friday night but the hostess was doing everything she could to accommodate the walk-in patrons and was cheerful and upbeat despite the line-ups. We were led to our table towards the back of the tiny dining area and immediately felt embraced by the homey comfort of the thick wooden tables, exposed brick walls and metal wine racks. I usually struggle to make a choice from a menu but with a limited number of items I assumed my decision would be easy to make. Not so. My friend even tried the age-old method of closing her eyes and pointing at an item for me!

Our server, I wish I had gotten his name, was incredible. Adding to the casual atmosphere, the servers were dressed in button-downs and jeans and our server welcomed us with such enthusiasm he made us feel like we were visiting with a friend. He expertly explained the specials, obviously proud of the concept of the restaurant, and even helped us pick our cocktails. (Side note: I thoroughly recommend the Vercingetorix cocktail. Tough to pronounce but named after an historical figure who surrendered to Julius Caesar we dubbed it the loser cocktail!)

We started with the fresh made sourdough bread and black pepper butter – I could have probably eaten a whole meal of this and been completely happy. Due to the mix-up we were then gifted an appetizer to share and the chickpea fritters with curry aioli and pea shoots were absolutely out of this world. For my main I chose the halibut dish. Served on a delicious bed of stinging nettle oat risotto, the fish was cooked to perfection, just flaking off with my fork. A fennel salad on top of the fish added a slight sweetness to the peppery bite of the risotto, a crispy piece of duck skin added a wonderful contrast of texture and the salt on the dish was provided by a thick slab of bacon.

The piece de resistance for us though was the dessert we decided to share. Noted on the specials board our milk chocolate panna cotta served in a mason jar was quite possibly one of the best desserts I’ve had. The panna cotta itself was incredibly smooth and not overly sweet. Fresh summer berries and a salty Oreo cookie crumble added texture and the whole thing was topped with a perfectly tart summer berries gel. For us, the most impressive part of service was when we were asked if we wanted to have our dessert right away or if we wanted to hang out for a bit longer before they brought it out. Such a thoughtful offer and it all added up to convince us we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted.

I don’t know when I last had such a wonderful experience at a restaurant, start-to-finish. It’s obvious that every staff member is proud to be involved in the organization and I would have likely missed out on this if the initial mix-up hadn’t been handled with such grace and respect. I’ve worked in customer service my whole career and I tend to be overly critical of the experiences I have. Keep doing what you’re doing, Fable; you’ve got all parts of the equation nailed and I will be back.