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Let me set you straight, art world!

Why they called it ‘midlife crisis’? (And what do I call it)

[ 2 min read ]

According to dictionary in English ‘crisis’ is not necessarily a negative thing. It is a turning point after which there can be a positive or a negative change (although I doubt our ability to judge what constitutes a positive or a negative change — but let’s not go that deep, let’s assume we can tell a positive change from a negative one).

But it is (a negative thing) in Polish and German for example. And in both countries people also talk about the ‘midlife crisis’. In both countries ‘crisis’ is not something people would wait for with open arms. Usually if there is crisis it is already a reason to feel worried — it’s a bad sign and usually it is expected that bad things will happen as a result of a crisis (if a crisis couldn’t have been overcome it usually means the situation will get out of hand and it means more problems and bad things).

It suffices to say that in both languages one of the synonyms for a ‘crisis’ is ‘depression’. And depression isn’t a nice thing, even in English (a period of drastic economic decline; period of widespread poverty and high unemployment; A mood disorder characterized by persistent sadness or inability to experience pleasure combined with othersymptoms; a mental disorder characterized by extreme gloom, feelings of inadequacy, and inability to concentrate, etc.). Also the vast majority of synonyms of the word ‘crisis’ (in both Polish and German) are the words which mean something unwanted, bad, detrimental.

But I guess ‘crisis’, despite the definitions we can find in English dictionaries, and the not necessarily bad connotation suggested by those dictionaries, also isn’t something people for whom English is a native language welcome with open arms. Why? Because it means there is this possibility that a change will occur. And changes scare the hell out of most people.

To me it has the potential to be the midlife awakening, and I believe that’s what it should be called and would be called if more people had the courage to change their lives not just merely freak out and then go back to ‘normal’.

I call it ‘midlife awakening’ or ‘midlife wake up call’ or ‘midlife turning point’. Those words are way better than ‘crisis’ because they don’t have this bad connotation ‘crisis’ does, at least in my native language (Polish).

But since somebody once called it ‘midlife crisis’ and it caught on we can’t expect that the majority of people will wait for it with a sense of hope and excitement. They’re much more likely to be either horrified (if someone who is close to them goes through it), or completely at a loss, unaware that it could also mean a good thing (if this thing, this ‘midlife crisis’ happened to them).

It’s always way easier to freak out for a short while and then go back to what you were doing before the crisis, than it is to change something in your life, go in a totally new direction. It’s even harder (hard as fuck!) if you called it a ‘crisis’.