Have you ever felt like you don’t really know who you are? Or have you ever gone out with your friends and had a good time, then came home and asked yourself: “Who was that person? Was that me, or who others want me to be?” People often throw around terms like “midlife crisis,” “identity crisis,” or something along the lines of “I feel lost.” But what does that really mean?
According to the dictionary, a midlife crisis is defined as a period of psychological stress occurring in middle age, thought to be triggered by a physical, occupational, or domestic event, as menopause, diminution of physical prowess, job loss, or departure of children from the home.
An identity crisis is defined as a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.
According to my definition, it all comes down to being confused about … well, everything! It’s about feeling lost.
Rather than view what I am going through in a negative light, I have decided to describe what is happening to me as a “Midlife Bang!”
So here I am, presumably having a midlife crisis bang in my early thirties, although most who know me would most likely disagree and say things like “You’re in a constant midlife crisis bang!” and make comments like “You women never know what you want.” But does everyone out there really know what they want? Or do we just kind of pretend we do and go with the flow? Or maybe what we want changes over time?
I have watched many of my friends reach the age 30 and, well, “lose it” for a year or so: some quit their jobs and travel, others cut their hair super short, some have babies, and others go live in the forest.
But why? What happens to us when we hit the age 30?
I initially tried to research the topic, but after a few hours, I realized that would be a whole book in itself. So rather than trying to understand why I seem to have hit a wall at this point in my life, I have decided to take a more modern and Oprah-inspired approach and to think of it as an opportunity to find my true calling!
Why The Divided?
I’d like to start by telling you a little about what this whole “divided” thing is about and, well, why I am sharing it with you.
I drew a little illustration for you to highlight some of the conflict that makes me feel divided.
I recommend that you also draw an illustration of all the things that make you who you are!
After drawing this illustration, I made a list of all the things I consider to be the “core” of who I am, so I suggest you do the same, and in the process of trying to figure out who you are or what you want, you could maybe focus on these things to keep you grounded.
Me and my core
I am an Arab Muslim Canadian and have lived the majority of my life in my now forever home, Canada. That being said, I have a strong relationship to my culture and my people, this connection that has never faded and will likely never fade. So I have taken on this Canadian identity while at my core maintaining a Middle Eastern heart.
Over the years and until now, I have been divided between these two identities, as I do not fit in with Canadians, nor do I really fit in with Arabs. I am both, and somehow neither. It’s like a new culture has formed, one that encompasses a mixed background and mixed understandings of life and being. The people I do seem to get along with are ones who like me have experienced this divide in their life, which can happen with people from all backgrounds: Russian Canadian, Bosnian Canadian, Persian Canadian, Indian Canadian, etc. We all somehow have this understanding by just looking at one another, an understanding of a divide that’s within us between who we are with others and who we are at heart. While some have found a balance that works for them, I am still struggling to do so.
People are always telling me that I am stubborn and that I question things too much. That I should stop questioning and start accepting. But how can I stop questioning? The moment I stop questioning is the moment I stop learning, and I will NEVER stop learning. If I don’t learn I don’t evolve, and if don’t evolve then I won’t survive.
I question everything. All the time.
Have you ever performed a cultural ritual or taken part in a cultural tradition, but stopped yourself and said: “This makes no sense whatsoever?”
Or has an uncle ever said something that was so ignorant, but you could not correct him because he is the eldest, and no one must ever speak back to him?
These things happen–all the time–and while society imposes all these identities on us that we try to keep up with, we come home to a different set of expectations.
As a woman with a strong cultural background, I have to try to respect that aspect of my life while also trying to succeed as one of the only female executives in my company. I have to manage the many faces I must wear to ensure I maintain my (self-) respect, my power and my opinions.
Life has placed expectations on all of us. Who we should be? How we should be? What we need to be? From the moment you are born, your parents start telling you what you should and should not do, whom you should and should not be, how you should speak and when not to speak. Then all of sudden, you are let out into the world and faced with a new set of societal rules that are telling you who and how and what you should be. Finally, you wake up one day, look in the mirror and ask yourself: “Who do I want to be?”
This is what I call my Midlife Bang!