I often joke about the early midlife crisis I went through when I was 37.  It had all of the superficial trappings of such a life-event:  the convertible (Saab, but at least it wasn’t red), the inappropriate relationships (12 years younger), the surprising hobbies (taking up the drums). 

However, there was one aspect of this life experience that was not as frivolous.  I had reached goals I had set out to achieve, then realized I didn’t care about them.  I had climbed the corporate ladder, then felt the urge to jump.  I had acquired the dream house, then resented the time and effort that went into maintaining it.  I started to realize that the life I had created for myself was not the one I was meant to have.  

When I think about it, I believe that every midlife crisis can be boiled down to two key recognitions: 

  • You aren’t sure about your purpose in life.
  • You just noticed that your time is running out.

So this is where I found myself at 37.  Grappling with the age-old question:  “Why am I here?” and its not-so-distant relatives “What do I want to be when I grow up?” and “What will people remember me for when I’m gone?”  It might have hit me earlier than some, but it was painful nonetheless.  It still is painful because, four years later, I thought I had the answer and now wonder if I was barking up the wrong tree…again.

To consider having a life’s purpose or higher calling sometimes feels fluffy to our Western brains.  We are so results-focused, so goal-oriented, so matter of fact, that the idea that we would have a “purpose” rather than a “career” seems silly – purposes don’t pay the bills!  But according to Deepak Chopra (yes, him again), if you can find your dharma, your reason for being on this planet, then the money you need will follow.  That can be hard to wrap your head around, and I suppose it really requires a leap of faith. 

I do know some people who see their job as just that – a job.  They tolerate their job and pursue their passions outside of work.  That doesn’t cut it for me.  I can’t imagine enduring something for so many hours a day so I can live my life on the weekends.  My continual struggle is to develop a vocation – a job that gives me joy, is consistent with the contribution I am supposed to be making to this world, and will sustain my family.  Gee, I wonder why it is taking me so long to figure this out…

I know it is possible, which is why I refuse to give up.  With increasing frequency, I see examples of people who are pursuing their missions in life and finding that it is works out financially, as well as emotionally.  I will leave you with one such example of someone manifesting her purpose.

My friend, Kerri, has always enjoyed bicycles.  She rode them, learned to repair them, and has been working around them for years.  Her love of biking has become part of her lifestyle – she chooses to ride her bike instead of driving a car.  A few years ago, Kerri channeled her passion for bikes into a wonderful organization called The Bike Church.  Through this program, children in Asbury Park help recycle and repair old bicycles, and are given the opportunity to earn a bike themselves in the process.  Kerri had been running this program during her free time, but knowing it was part of a larger mission to get more people riding bikes, she decided to leave her job to expand the program by adding Second Life Bikes, a similar program for teenagers.  She did this without knowing how she would get paid; obviously, she had to have faith and believe that everything would work out.  Well, a wonderful thing has been happening and I have been fortunate to witness it first-hand:  materials, supplies, and financial support keep presenting themselves to her. 

One day in the course of a conversation, Kerri said, “I really need to get an Internet connection in the shop.”  The next day, she mentioned in passing that a friend had stopped by, and while he was there he offered to set up an Internet connection for her.  I said, “Are you telling me that yesterday afternoon, a couple of hours after you mentioned to me that you needed an Internet connection, someone showed up at your space and offered to install one?!”  “Yes,” she said, and her smile said it all:  On one hand she was surprised and on the other she wasn’t.  Everything has been falling into place. 

This has happened repeatedly.  One day, Kerri was thinking that she should order helmets, and later the same day a woman called and specifically said she wanted to donate helmets.   Another time she was thinking about a specific person who someone had mentioned she should call, and that person stopped by.  There are many more examples, and it has been surreal.

Kerri’s experience has been proof to me that when someone starts a journey down the right path, the universe conspires to provide help along the way.  So even though it is exhausting for me to grapple with the Big Question, I know that this is the hard part.  Once I figure out what I was sent here to do, the rest will be like a downhill bike ride…effortless and fun!

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