The Myth of Life's Timeline

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By Takesha Powell

What do you call a broke, unemployed or partially employed 40-year-old man or woman still living at home with their parent(s)? If you were like most people, the answer would be “loser”. Yet, the “loser” may actually just be a victim of temporary hard times; society imposes a timeline of expectations among us based upon our ages.
A wise man once said that the best-laid plans are meant to be broken, and that the only constant in life is change.

This couldn’t be truer if you find yourself in the midst of a “mid-life or quarter-life crisis”. The definition of a mid-life or quarter-life crisis is someone who finds themselves at an unexpected crossroads later in their lives. This could mean a number of things from being laid-off from a job you held for over a decade, having children later in life, experiencing a divorce, deaths, or some other kind of life-altering event that you didn’t foresee.

When we’re in our 20s, we’re told the world is our oyster and that we should be partying up a storm and enjoying our first taste of freedom through as much socialization as possible (think drinking, sexing and experimentation of all kinds, both legal and illegal).

When we’re in our 30s, we’re told we should be saving up towards our future, working a great job and by now, living away from our parents. This is the time in our lives when we’re supposed to be slaving away at a job, in graduate school or working on getting married and starting a family.

When we’re in our 40s, we’re told we should already be established in our chosen profession, have already had our children, be happily married with the nicest home on the block, and beginning saving towards our retirement.
However, in my case as with many like me, as I near my 40s next year, I have none of these things. I am happily divorced, a single mother with a piece of a writing career (I have yet to pen that bestseller), and I have no home to speak of. Not to mention that my finances are in a bit of a mess (after my divorce), and I blew all of my savings once my unemployment benefits ran out – compliments of the State of New Jersey no longer offering extended benefits once I was laid off from my beloved job.

I have a Master’s degree in Adult Education and Distance Learning and therefore, amongst my friends and family, am considered to be among the privileged. So why do I not own that fabulous home, married to that stellar husband and have enough money to wipe my ass with? What am I doing wrong? Life. Poor planning, destiny, plain bad luck …all of the above have been true in my case. But what comes next is depression, disappointment and despair. It can be hard to accept the fact that the picture perfect life hasn't happened for you. How do you recover?

38 year-old Kendra Harris (name has been changed to protect her fragile self-image), had to sell all of her belongings and move back in with her mother after her divorce and job loss. "All of my friends think of me as a loser simply because I can no longer afford to pay for my own lunch when we meet up. I feel so embarrassed I hardly want to leave my mother's house to see anyone. It's like I'm nothing without my job..and my things."
Feelings of despair and loss are common when we don't fit society's iron-clad image of where we should be "at our age". These feelings have a tendency to swallow our emotiong whole whether we are men or women. Men often get hit particularly hard when they are forced to move back in with parents, friends or co-workers due to a job loss or financial mis-managment. 40 year old, Weiss Creiman (not his real name), had to avoid dates with women during his brief stay at his parents' after his company went under. "Women I would date wanted to label me as a bum or a Mama's boy, when in actuality, I was trying desperately to rebuild my life," he says, now back on his feet financially and owner of his new townhouse. "It's amazing how shallow we've become as a society. I never realized how tough it is for the opposite sex to see the "real you" when you don't have a dime in your pocket."

Denise Monrose, a Holistic Health Nutritionist in New Jersey, chides in. "When we attach our self-worth to things and our jobs, we are setting ourselves up for a fall should we lose those things. However, society places such a strong emphasis on maintaining a "timeline" for success that the only way we can survive these constraints is to step back and realize how important our basic truths and strengths are."

In other words, it's important for all of us to remember that life happens to us when we least expect it and nothing is promised. We can be sitting on top of the world one minute, and losing it all the next. It doesn't just happen to ignorant athletes, drug addicts and poor planners. Life can send us a loop, and thus, send us into a quarter-life or mid-life crisis for any number of reasons.

So perhaps you're the person who never found their niche in life, or who had one misstep after another, or experienced such drama and loss in your life that it was hard for you to find your way…there is always time for a second chance at life, a second chance to find the real, true you…even if your in your 40s or later and have had to exist of of unemployment or Mom and Dad all over again.

Don't give up trying to find who you are! It's certainly worth it as some of the greatest achievers of our time found life, love, fame and money after falling time and time again. In the words of the wise, it's never too late!


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