By Ray Lucas
Apparently, I have been in the middle of a midlife crisis and didn’t even know it. Who knew? I’m new at these things and honestly have never been overly self-aware. I got the first hint of this crisis from co-workers talking about my new auto purchase – a red Jeep Wrangler.
After seeing the Jeep in the parking garage a co-worker jokingly offered, “We like your shiny red midlife crisis.” The ladies from the office all believed my Jeep to be “cute” and a deep manifestation of a middle age crossroads.
“Midlife crisis?” I respond in mild protest. “I’m not having a midlife crisis!”
My co-worker countered, “Let’s see… you are mid-forties and that Jeep may as well be a red convertible. In fact, if you think about it, it is a four-wheel drive, red convertible. This is definitely midlife crisis material.”
“There is no crisis,” I repeat. “I’ve wanted a Jeep since I was 16 years old.”
What I told her was true. I wanted a Jeep Wrangler before I ever got my license. For the first 10 driving years of my life I just didn’t have the money to buy one. The next 20 years were full of new children, car seats, mini vans and drooling over optional leather interiors so I could wipe up sippy cup spills more easily. Four-wheel drives and removable doors weren’t on the menu.
Driving home that day, with the Wrangler top down of course, I questioned my state of mind? Was I having a midlife crisis and just didn’t know it? Shouldn’t there be more actual crisis to a midlife crisis? I don’t feel conflicted. I shared my co-workers observations with my wife to get her perspective.
My wife, who is 10 years younger than me and whom I wed in my early forties, shared matter of factly, “I thought I was your midlife crisis.” After a moment more of thought she went on, “But now that you mention it, a new Jeep is what granola guys like you do for a midlife crisis. It’s your last chance to look cool driving with the wind in your hair. Yeah, it sounds like a midlife crisis to me.”
My 17-year old daughter chimed in, “You know dad, there is more to this than just the Jeep. In the past five years, you guys are always going to music festivals like Bonnaroo and Forecastle and listening to bands that are way too young for you. You go out with your friends to cool restaurants and drink your craft beers. I have to agree that the facts are stacked against you.”
I went for another drive to sift through the mounting evidence. There in the open cockpit of my new Jeep, with Trampled By Turtles blaring from the speakers while winding around country roads in the Knobs, I had an epiphany. Maybe there is no void in my life that I am trying to fill. Maybe a midlife crisis is simply the point in your life when you finally have the money and freedom to do the things you wish you could have done years ago?
The more I think through my mental state of mind, I feel relieved that this isn’t a crisis after all. If this is all there is to a midlife crisis, I’m okay with it. And if my co-workers, my daughter or anyone else has a problem with that, they know where to find me. I’ll be that mid-forties guy driving my red Wrangler to Bonnaroo to listen to alternative music with a cooler full of craft beer and my wife who is 10 years younger at my side.
It’s a midlife Jeep thing, they wouldn’t understand.