I remember my mom’s mid-life crisis. She was about 40, I guess, when she decided that teaching rich kids in an exclusive private school was meaningless. So she just walked away.
The following fall found her in a dingy classroom in one of the poorest school districts in our city, a classroom in which we spent many weekends scrubbing, painting, and sanding off old wooden desks. Years later, I also remember thephone calls she regularly got from some of those kids, now adults, who just wanted to fill her in on their lives.
I think we should all have our mid-life crises in our twenties. We should be asking ourselves the same life-changing questions that my mom did at 40. And if we can come up with really good answers, allowing those answers to “drive” our lives, we won’t have to have that crisis in our 40’s when life is already half over. I’ve come up with 6 for starters. You may want to add more.
- If money were no object, what job/career would you choose?
You spend at least 40 hours a week working. Do you love it? Does what you accomplish make you feel good about yourself? Here’s the test. When you get up in the morning, assuming you did not turn last night’s happy hour into a much longer event, are you looking forward to getting to work? Do you stay late, bring work home, or go in on the weekends because you are excited about a project or just because you feel some sense of obligation and have to meet a deadline? You need to find your passion now and take steps that will lead you to a work life that incorporates that passion.
- Are the people you hang with making you happy and moving you forward?
Are your friends’ lives meaningful or pretty shallow? There is an old saying, “We are known by the company we keep.” I would submit that the saying should be re-written. “We become the same type of person as those we hang with.” Do your friends read? Do they do some kind of volunteer work? Do they care about the issues society faces? Or is all of the conversation about shopping, parties, football, video games, and vacations? Point made!
- Who are your heroes?
Can you come up with at least 3 adjectives to describe those people you most admire? Now relate those adjectives to yourself. Do they fit? If not, why not? Make a list of things that you can do starting right now that will make those adjectives fit. Should you become a “big brother or sister?” Should you give a few hours a week to an animal shelter or to “Habitat for Humanity?” Pick a societal need and do your small part to meet it!
- Are you a giver or a taker in your personal relationships?
John Kennedy’s famous statement at his inaugural address was, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” This should be applied to personal relationships as well. If you spend your whole life as a “taker,” you will end this journey with having contributed to no one else’s well-being.
- What are your skills or talents? What are you not good at?
Make two lists. Are you happy with those lists? What skills or talents would you like to have that you do not have now? How can you get them? Maybe you have to go back to school or engage in some self-learning. Being a life-long seeker of knowledge and/or skills is one of the most fulfilling activities you can pursue. And, it may lead to a job/career about which you really have passion!
- If you could write the eulogy for your funeral, what would you want it to contain?
No one in his/her twenties wants to think about death, of course. But, when this particular journey is over, what should be most memorable about you? If those memories only relate to what you accumulated and to the fact that you “did no harm,” your journey was not meaningful. Take the first steps today to fulfill the eulogy you want!