Some people when they hit their 40s and 50s go through what is known as a midlife crisis. This is the time of life when, if you believe the propaganda of our consumerist society, one should have reached the pinnacle of their career, raised the prescribed 2.5 children, obtained the house with a white picket fence, and finally have their sh*t together.
In reality, this rarely happens. Even if you do have a successful career, nice house, well-adjusted kids (or furry babies) and a happy marriage or partnership, some people’s expectations of how their lives should have turned out in adulthood are wildly amiss with where they actually end up.
This can cause people to fall into depression, suffer anxiety or make drastic – and often harmful or hurtful – changes in their lives. No doubt you’ve heard the old cliché about the 50-something year-old-man buying a sports car and chasing younger women. Or the woman who ran off with the tennis instructor/pool boy. Maybe you know people who have done just that.
Although Brian and I never really followed the “prescribed” path to adulthood (we were together 10 years before we got married and another 10 before we had a child, and were more interested in traveling than climbing the corporate ladder), by the time we hit our 40s, our lives were starting to look pretty “normal.”
We had a nice house in the suburbs, were brand new parents, and had been in the same jobs for many years. While we loved our lot and the comforts of our privilege, after a while we started to get the feeling that life was passing us by – that we’d wake up in another 10 years and still be in the same place doing the same thing and our daughter would be nearly grown up.
This was our midlife crisis.
However, unlike the cliché, we tackled this problem as a team and didn’t let it drive us apart. We instinctively knew what we had to do – tap back into our old wanderlust ways. So, we unplugged from everything we knew and moved our family to Mexico for a year.
The idea to take off for a year first hatched long before we actually did it. I had been struggling to have a successful pregnancy for a while, and finally gave up at age 39. We decided a year of travel would be the best way for us to deal with the loss, reconnect with each other and learn to embrace a life without children. But as fate would have it, as soon as we had given up all hope, I got pregnant with Maya. (I like to say she was my last good egg.)
With Maya now in our lives, our motivation to leave the rat race took on an even greater sense of urgency and purpose. As older parents, we knew we had limited time with our only daughter. We would be 60 by the time she was in college, and who knows how our health would be by then. I don’t want to sound all doomsday, but you never know what can happen in life. We have had several family and friends face life-threatening health issues in their 30s, 40s and 50s. All we knew was, that at age 43 and 44 – when we first left the U.S for Mexico – we weren’t getting any younger and we wanted to spend as much time as possible with our daughter while she was (and we were) still young.
So here we are 4 years later, and we still haven’t left Mexico. We have figured out how to support ourselves here financially without having to work ourselves to death. And what was originally a one-year plan in response to our midlife crisis, has turned into a lifelong plan resulting in a midlife awakening.
We are awakening to the pleasure of spending an extravagant amount of time together as a family and as a couple.
We are awakening to the simplicity of living without the constant pressure to consume and compete.
We are awakening our inner creativity and becoming artists, writers, collectors and makers.
We are awakening to the thrill of living in a different culture and expanding our ideas on how the world and society works.
We are awakening to the fulfillment of spending copious amounts of time in nature.
We are awakening to the joys of unstructured, unplanned playtime with friends.
We are awakening to the lightness of being that comes from working less and living more.
These are some of the many reasons we have chosen to stay in Mexico.
That is not to say we don’t miss Colorado or our friends and family in the U.S. We do – very much so. And that is not to say that life in Mexico is all roses all the time. It’s certainly not. But, at the end of the day when we calculate the costs and benefits of this new life, we still end up ahead by staying.