Tuesday, January 7, 2014

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON REACHING 50

First written and published 18 years ago

As a practicing clinical psychologist, I am many things to many people. However, who I am and how I see myself is a result of my own internal debate and journey of life. As a product of both the silent and baby-boomer generations, like so many of my peers, I have acquired a well defined set of moral and ethical values that have served me well as I "climbed the corporate ladder" and raised a family. During those early years life seemed well defined and relatively simple. Being a natural caretaker and caregiver, you will not be surprised that I chose to opt into the society of my parents. This, for a man of my generation, meant being a good provider, taking care of the "outside of the house" and being there for my family. Later, the women's movement, children's rights, massive changes in immigration policies, as well as technological advances would contribute to the confusion between men and women.
This smooth period in my life was suddenly interrupted at the age of 40, when I went through a "mid-life or identity crisis." Most women do not experience this phenomenon, having years earlier experienced their own internal debate and conflict between their professional role and their nurturing role. Like others experiencing an identity crisis, I questioned everything about my life, including my values, my self worth and my life goals. The next decade of my life  would be spent attempting to answers those questions.
Despite the fact that my generation is one of the wealthiest, healthiest and most privileged, during our forties, all of us have had to deal with issues that no one is prepared to do so. Each of us must learn to cope with losses, whether due to health, death, divorce or job loss. Perhaps for the first in our lives we experience our own vulnerability and reaction to pain and loss
 How we handle our losses, whether we allow ourselves the time to mourn and to heal, or if we chose to remain stuck in our anger, will determine the manner in which we live out the rest of our lives. Each of us must learn to open ourselves to our support systems and allow others the privilege  to care for us.
Many have written of the differences between men and women, but with age and grace comes an interesting change with each of the sexes becoming more in touch with traits of the opposite sex. Thus men display more of their feminine traits, sensitivity, nurturing and women become more assertive and goal oriented. These newfound traits. commonly found in the early fifties, lead to more equal and satisfying relationships between men and women.
As I approach the autumn of my life, there is a sense of renewal and purpose, a spiritual reawakening that allows me to accept my limits and to cherish the daily miracles. Although I value external stimulation and beauty, it is the inner peace and strength that carry me forward. I am gradually redefining my goals to include closer relationships with my family, children, loved ones, and friends.
I have a need to encourage the youth of today, whether it be professionally or as a mentor or friend, with their struggle to find their identity in this constantly changing world. I have taken on new challenges and am striving to understand the massive technological and sociological changes that are occurring in our society. Although I have chosen to write this essay in a personal form, these changes I have attempted to articulate in my own personal growth, are similar to other men and women who have taken the time and energy to get to know themselves on their journey of life.

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