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.