I just had a thought — many mid-age women claim that they feel the best of themselves in this age band because they are independent, self-sufficient, less anxious, not that they have fewer troubles in life, but they view them as a matter-of-fact, just deal with it when it comes.

    On one hand, the cliche is always that mid-age is a tough time because we have fewer choices now than when we were young, but much more obligation/responsibilities to fulfill, family, kids, parents, and so on. Therefore there are many of the "I have to" scenarios, part of it that it becomes a convenient execuse to do the things you want and to dodge the things you don't like; on the other hand they do feel that you have to do them because you are aware that alternatives (not like before that you simply don't know what the alternative path can lead to, thus were feeling hopeful because you didn't know better), if any, is not that pretty and easy either. So might as well force through on this same path, of which at least you know some about. So there is marriage that people hold on to, not that they like it, but they feel they have to (until another perfect candidate shows up in hour life), the job you have to go to everyday (and all jobs are not fun and easy, and mingle with a new team, new environment, essentially a new social group, is not only very tiring, but quite scary.).....

    So literature, talks, movies, TVs, all depict a mid-life crisis when these inevitable tasks crash on you, probably in a blow-up fashion (when all the misfortunes happen at once), and honestly, the blow-up fashion is the probably the only possible fashion this will play out, because the original so called "balance" is so fragile that any deviation will cause it to → CRASH! So we keep tittering by the edge of a cliff, trying not to look down, not to fall, to fool the mind that the cliff does not exist, to look for even a grass to grab, thinking that at least it will create some resistance when gravity kicks in ← maybe it will slow down the fall? maybe it is just strong enough to hold me?.... in sum, we want a sense of security, but it feels like an impossible goal.

    But then, why women in their 40s feel so good about themselves? and even for myself, I feel so much, more sure about myself than ever, not because of the skills I have or the job or the status. I mean, if measured by any of these dimensions I'm an absolute loser in any common sense and categories. No. I started to feel "sure" about myself because now I'm angrier these day, which then translate to that I constantly feel that I don't care much about the surroundings, other people's views or opinions, anymore. Noah, like me, is keenly sensitive of people around, and gets influenced easily. Siqi, probably the same, when she said she is a like a mirror merely reflecting the people around her. I wonder this is an attribute of smartness ← because you are smart, your mind is that much perceptive to things and people, so you, if viewed as a machine, acquires a much greater amount of information that it feeds your powerful brain to process to keep it busy, then in return you feel more, know more, think more, thun wiser and smarter, than those who don't — a perfect, positive, feedback loop!

    So when I don't pay attention to others anymore, does it then make me dumb, in the end, because I cut off the feedback loop now? Actually I would say no. Sometimes I feel I'm simply turning inward more, so I still sense these things, think/process, but it becomes an entertainment for myself, a show without an audience, versus when I was younger the best time is when there is an audience who applauds. No, audience is not needed anymore. I think that makes a difference. This leads to that since I don't seek for approval by others, things you do, or not do, becomes solely your own decision — you do it because you enjoy some part of it, no one forces you to. Alternatives are many. The reason you didn't take them is not that you have to do this one, but you have made a choice for yourself. And even for alternatives, I sometimes think I know too many alternatives, which makes choice difficult (aren't we all fear the cost of opportunity?). If only God has laid one path in front of you, and you have no choice but this one!

    For young folks, alternatives were few, due mostly to their limited life experience (at one point I firmly believed that going to college, getting married, having a kid, is THE ONLY GOOD PATH I should take). As many of them look quite promising, because, they seem to solve the current problem. Well, they might do solve your problem, but they also come with theirs, just different ones, and devils are in the details, they only look easier than what you have because, you haven't been there yet. Once you take a few steps on that alternative path, boy, isn't this one hard!

    So this is what life has taught me — there is no silver bullet. Everything comes with a set of good things and bad things. Making decision or choosing alternative is simply swapping one set of these goods and bads with another. No difference (well, there is I have to say, because Siqi is such a wonderful, beautiful, person, of mind & soul.) Therefore, I feel relieved at this age, that there isn't anything I have to. No. There are many I can choose from, because it's all about whether I'm willing to take that path or not.

    I think this explains why these 40ish women feel relieved, and I think it's the right feeling to have. We in our 40s have less possibilities, but abundant alternatives. What's lacking is will, but that's not an age thing. It's more of a personal attribute, some have it, some don't. It can be labled as risk taking, or being conservative, or being a responsible, or just being satisfied with what you have (what-is-happiness kind of talk).... whatever it is called, I want to make it clear, that it's a decision you are making, there is no "I have to", there is only "I do".

    — by Feng Xia


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