A thought came into my mind. Is my early retirement my forever option or could it be temporary, a manifestation of a midlife crisis?
Wikipedia says a midlife crisis is "a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person's growing age, inevitable mortality, and possibly shortcomings of accomplishments in life". It goes on to say that this "may produce feelings of depression, remorse, and anxiety, or the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to their current lifestyle".
Although I'm drawn to the definition on WebMD: "What's a midlife crisis? It's the stuff of jokes and stereotypes - the time in life when you do outrageous, impractical things like quit a job impulsively, buy a red sports car, or dump your spouse". But it also says that "while it can be accompanied by serious depression, it can also mark a period of tremendous growth". I'm going to hang on to the tremendous growth part, the rest was sounding a bit depressing.
I don't need to look in the mirror to learn about myself, I have Sally, and she tells me I'm in midlife crisis mode. I guess that's why the question of full time early retirement versus temporary midlife crisis early retirement entered my mind.
These are some examples that Sally gives to support her midlife crisis opinion:
My plan for backpacking around the world
Becoming a vegetarian
Downsizing and becoming more minimalist - an interest in less impactful living
My thoughts for a van conversion
Buying an apartment in France
Fortunately she didn't throw impulsive job quitting at me🤣.
Some on her list seem like normal interests to me, such as thoughts of weekend warrior bikepacking, but I accept that at least some others appear to meet the definition of making drastic changes to my lifestyle. On the other hand, my old work hours must be replaced with activities, so it's natural that I'll tinker with some new thoughts.
She also remembered my disappointment at turning fifty a few weeks back. It was an unwelcome milestone. I say it's just a number, that how I act and what I do is what really counts, but that logic works better in theory than in practice. It feels like a tipping point from where things start to go downhill. Will I be able to do the things I want to? For example, over the past seven years I started running, then cycling and more recently skiing - fifty seems like a notice that my pace will get slower, the falls harder and the legs stiffer. It's not an optimistic feeling.
I'm wondering what I can do about it? On the basis that time travel isn't an option, I guess it's a case of dealing with it, making a plan and being optimistic.
Thinking about this makes me realise that this post started off with the wrong question. It shouldn't be whether my early retirement is part of a midlife crisis, but instead about how early retirement gives me the chance to explore opportunities. Quitting my job and starting early retirement has opened my mindset to new things plus given me the time to think them through and actually do them if I choose. No doubt I'll change some of my ideas and make mistakes along the way, but discovering and learning from the mistakes will be part of the experience.
I already know that some ideas are more realistic than others. The backpacking around the world is making progress, although we've adjusted it to be in stages instead of my original one big trip idea. On the other hand, I suspect the van conversion is a pipe dream. I'm wooed by Instagram and YouTube, the stunning vistas and adventures lead by annoyingly attractive and young vanlifers. Sally though, isn't showing any interest in a van, and I guess I'll eventually realise it won't make me adventurous, attractive nor young either🤣, so it will probably remain an idea rather than a reality. That said, I'm not ready to completely give up the idea just yet.
Midlife crisis or opportunity is a lot about perspective. It reminds me of how Sally asks whether I enjoy cycling and running. I'm new to cycling in the mountains, and the long and steep climbs have been a shock. It sure doesn't feel like fun while I'm suffering up them. The same goes for running marathons, the 42.2km is really tough and often quite miserable. But after I've finished, that's a different story. Something has been worked hard for, and when it's accomplished it's a great feeling. Pain, or satisfaction and pride? It depends on perspective.
My "midlife crisis" events are the same. They're new things, and some will test me and, if I'm honest, some could be me trying to cling to the idea of youth, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But they also give me a target, maybe a challenge, and hopefully enjoyment and fulfilment. And if they don't work out, or just aren't for me, then at least I've had the idea and tried it out. I won't be left to wonder "what if?".
So is it forever early retirement or midlife crisis temporary early retirement for me? I'm certain it's forever early retirement, which has brought with it a change of outlook/mindset that lets me consider new things. That last part sounds like the period of growth that the article in WebMD talked about and, if that means I'm also having a bit of a midlife crisis, I'll gladly take it, enjoy it, and try to put out of my mind that I'm getting a little bit older.