August 15, 2008

30 Ways to Deal With Your Mid-Life Crisis

My midlife crisis has arrived early, I am convinced of it.

On Monday, September 8, I am going to 30 years old.

Rather than rejoice this simple fact, the majority of my year so far has been preparing for the dreadful day I lose sight of my 20s.

Why? As the old cliche goes, it ain't nothing but a number.

But for some unfathomable reason hitting 30 has triggered off an uncomfortable mix of thoughts, feelings and emotions, all of which have been slowly growing like a malignant tumour in my mind.

Now I have come up with an idea to make this new era one to remember, for better reasons than it being a period of dramatic self- doubt and disparate behaviour.

I guess one reason for this personal catastrophe is looking at more of what one doesn't have than does: I don't have children, a ring on my finger or a mortgage.

Many of my closest friends are cocooned in domesticated bliss and chat happily for hours about Cow and Gate's baby food on offer at Tesco. I can only talk about the fruity wines I got on a three-for- two deal.

"Any plans for children/marriage/settling down yet, Emma?" I'm asked regularly.

I appear to have reached an age where it is important to swap my Wonderbra for a nursing bra.

My crisis could also stem from the backdrop in which I have grown up: a culture focused on the pursuit of eternal youth.

We women are constantly besieged with images of how to achieve a wrinkle-free forehead, a gym-honed body and swishy shiny hair.

You can't just grow old, you gotta look great while doing it. Cue pictures of 63-year-old Dame Helen Mirren in her bikini.

I am a product of a product-obsessed age. I once would have hooted in dismissive laughter at the thought of Botox, but now it tempts me because I am sure deep trenches have appeared above the bridge of my nose.

This age is NOT old, my 30-plus friends reiterate while I mope around, counting the days while hurtling towards the inevitable milestone.

My friends Sam and Mel (two partying beauties with constitutions of iron who don't even look 25, let alone in their early 30s), reckon this new decade is great for us: women know what we want, aren't afraid to get it, have enough disposable income for shoes and have shed many insecurities.

But I can't help but mourn the passing of my 20s.

Gone are the days of the three-night benders followed by a fuzz- free head. My concern now is more centred on The Day After, than The Night Before.

Even a paltry four-hour session on the vino can reduce me to crying pitifully through a paranoia-soaked 24-hour hangover.

I remember the times I used to walk past old people and deliberately put an extra spring in my step in the hope they would look on with a tinge of envy about my obvious youth.

I attempted it the other day, while lolloping past a bus stop in Newton Abbot, and promptly fell flat on my face. I was helped up by a tweed-clad kindly old soul clutching his free bus-pass.

I was chastised about my midlife crisis by Laura, my straightforward (and younger) work-mate. "Oh for goodness sake," she chided, "if you were living in the Congo and your life expectancy was that much shorter I would be sympathetic."

It was on that note I decided to stop wallowing in self-pity and to turn this premature midlife crisis on its head.

My mission is to try 30 new challenges, starting from my birthday and running until I reach 31.

There are no stipulations: they can be daring, life-affirming choices or small but significant changes.

Not only will it be a great learning experience but my life will become richer, a tapestry of tales sprung from a crisis of age.

I am hoping to record my experiences in a blog or maybe even through these very pages.

My list is still very much in its infancy. The majority of people I have spoken to think it is a great idea, although I suspect their enthusiasm is to distract me from moaning.

Their contributions have varied, from the sublime 'wing-walking for charity' to the ridiculous 'become a lesbian' (suggested rather hopefully, I noted).

Here are my first ideas:

Give blood (starting small and altruistic)

Run a marathon (I have done two half-marathons, so this is a logical move).

Complete a parachute jump (I am terrified of heights. And planes. And quite possibly parachutes).

Visit a country outside Europe (New Zealand is a top choice).

Overcome my fear of horses (aged 13, I took a tumble while galloping cross-country, losing my helmet and nerve. I have never been back in the saddle since).

Meet Lance Armstrong (pictured). Ok, maybe that last one is a fantasy but have you seen his thighs?

My checklist is kind of like the 100 Things To Do Before You Die book, but on a more grassroots level.

I would welcome any suggestions from Herald Express readers (but please keep it legal).

In what I thought would be a cunning attempt at reverse psychology, I half-jokingly suggested to my better half Nick that one would be to 'have a baby'.

After all, I should really be thinking about my biological clock now.

He eyeballed me suspiciously before snapping: "Don't try that reverse psychology rubbish with me," and hurriedly bustled into the other room on the pretence of listening to the cricket.

Hmm, had better work on that one...

(c) 2008 Herald Express (Torquay UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.