Updated: Jan 13
Most people laugh when I tell them I’ve been through a midlife crisis. At first, that reaction caught me off guard, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. I believe they have this response for two reasons. First, they often tell me, I can’t possibly be old enough to have had a midlife crisis. As if there is a specific age requirement. (It’s not like buying booze or cigarettes!) I do look young for forty, but the reality is, I’m still 40. If I’m lucky only half of my life is over. Second, it makes people really uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say or how to react, because no one talks about it. It’s a hidden experience, something we just have to deal with in private. Well…until this blog anyway. I hope to shed some light on what my experience was – honestly, openly, and unapologetically. Although, I anticipate this is a different experience for everyone. Perhaps, like a snowflake, no two are exactly alike?!
My midlife crisis didn’t happen overnight, instead it built up over years and years before finally rearing its ugly head. It started somewhere around 2016 when I had the highest stress role of my professional life. A role that I took for all the wrong reasons. I mainly took the role for status and money, two things are that completely hedonic in nature and rarely bring true happiness. The other main reason for taking the role was, someone said they didn’t think I could handle it and that they were worried about me. That was all I needed to hear to switch into ‘prove them wrong’ mode. I just loved being underestimated.
There had to be more to life than making PowerPoints to justify my existence. There had to be a bigger reason for me to be here on Earth.
It didn’t take long for the excitement over the new paycheck to wear off. Working 24/7, constantly fighting against moving deadlines, and learning the inner workings of a business I had zero interest in started to take its toll. I quickly turned to alcohol and caffeine to cope. A favorite after work drink of mine was coffee with vodka. Yes! You read that right. The coffee allowed me to stay awake and get more work done and the vodka took the edge off. I’d stopped working out for almost four months straight, which in hindsight was the biggest mistake I could have made. My frustration just kept building, with no release, which was fueled further by coffee and vodka. My imposter syndrome went to work on overtime. “They’ll find out you’re a fraud. They all know you’re in over your head. How much longer can you fake it? You can’t do this job! You never should have taken it in the first place. They only wanted you because they needed a woman.” I had no choice but to immerse myself in work to avoid being ‘found out.’ My relationship with my husband was a casualty for several months, until by divine intervention, he was laid off for 5 months. Having him home fixed a lot for me, but we weren’t much better because I threw myself in deeper and left him with a majority of the child-rearing and housework.
After 11 months in my position, I was informed the President I supported was retiring and I was out of a job. I went from 300 miles an hour to 0 – overnight. My whole world seemed to crumble around me. People who treated me like gold were suddenly acting like I no longer existed. I was uninvited to meetings, people whispered and talked behind my back. Everyone loves to see the mighty fall and since I had lost all my power, I was a train wreck worth watching. Looking back, it was the best business lesson I could have ever learned. At the time though, it shook me to my core. I was my work. I had no hobbies, I had the shell of a marriage and family left, I had lost touch with most of my friends and the worst part was, I didn’t know what I truly wanted in life or who I even was. As usual, I turned to my good friend – wine! There wasn’t enough on the planet to fill my cup. Yet the more I drank, the sadder I became.
Eventually, I had to put my tail between my legs and except a position as Senior Manager. After toting around with the C-Suite for 11 months, it was a hard pill to swallow. But I was more determined than ever to do a great job and prove my worth, maybe even get promoted to Director. I began managing a team of 10 and put on a brave face. No one would have known how much I was suffering inside, because I faked the enthusiasm. Well, at least for the first 4 months.
One fateful day, I was presenting to the leadership team about our upcoming event. I kid you not, at the end of my presentation the President looked at me and proclaimed, “I’m bored.” The words were like a dagger. It took every ounce of strength for me not to cry in the meeting. I just sat there completely bug-eyed, because if I blinked a tear would have surely fallen for all to see. I felt like standing up and saying, “You’re bored? I’m f***ing bored! I don’t even care about this event or this company!” But I had bills to pay, what could I do? And I had spent so much time investing in my career, how could I possibly leave and start over somewhere else?
I physically went to the event in Vegas, but my mind was somewhere else. While I was there, I gave up my seat at an ice party we were hosting. You know those rooms that are 12 degrees and everyone drinks out of ice glasses? I hate being cold so the whole thing sounded terrible anyway. I let one of my direct reports go in my place, since she had organized the event. Instead, I went and saw the Jabbawockeez perform alone. It was during that performance that something was triggered. It was like they were dancing and talking directly to me. The whole show was about being the walking dead: going through the motions of life, as if you’re in the passenger seat, and everything is just happening to you. (Instead of me being in the driver’s seat and owning my destination.) Kid Cudi’s song Pursuit of Happiness became my anthem. I decided then and there that something had to change, but what?
When I returned home, I decided to take a week off of work. I was going to be a stay-at-home mom and try it out for a week. I told work that I was going to the Bahamas and would have no cell service or access to emails. My team was more than competent and could hold the fort down while I was away. I couldn’t wait to try out my new life!
During my week off I rekindled with all the things I loved. I took two dance classes at Broadway Dance Center in NYC. I learned to Pop and barely survived a floor barre – I was pretty rusty! I read women’s empowerment books and baked a cake. I made dinner and dropped the kids off at school each morning. Surprisingly there was no yelling and stress. I even treated myself to a facial and lunch at my favorite restaurant alone. I journaled each day to capture my true feelings as best I could. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t ready to see the signs from the universe. Mostly, because I had no idea what I would do if I wasn’t working full time. I made a decision to keep my job, but start looking for something else, and start using my money to make life easier. I hired a nanny to bring the kids to school every day. And while that helped, like most things, they wore off after a while.
I finally landed a role at an Energy company. I was thrilled when they offered to pay me more money than I had been making AND manage fewer people. Seemed like a win-win to me! I went to work as the Head of Demand Generation and Field Marketing for North America. Spoiler alert – it was great until it wasn’t.
In the Fall of 2018, we had a death in the family and again in the beginning of 2019. These major events called my own mortality into question, big time! I started waking up in the middle of the night stricken with panic attacks about dying. I felt trapped in a life I hated. Sure, it looked great on paper. Nice title, nice paycheck, but it was torture. There had to be more to life than making PowerPoints to justify my existence. There had to be a bigger reason for me to be here on Earth. I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. My soul had been sucked dry. How had I gone from being a creative actress and dancer, who had a zest for life to this? A middle-aged woman crying in her bathroom at 4 am in the morning in the pitch-black feeling like I’d wasted the last 15 years of my life. And how could I make it stop?
In one of my toxic outbursts at work, a co-worker asked me a very pointed question. What do you want to do before you die? This was it – this was the exact moment EVERYTHING changed for me. I went home and watched The Secret on YouTube that night. It all made sense. I needed to take action, any action to change my circumstances or I risked being doomed to this miserable existence forever.
But what? What do I want to do? I love to dance, but last time I checked no one was hiring a 40-yr. old back-up dancer! Then it hit me, my memoir! I had started writing a memoir in 2009 after my first son was born. I probably had 30-40K words written. Why not finish it? Which was exactly what I committed to doing. Right after I did what every self-respecting adult in a midlife crisis does…I bought a Benz. If the good Lord was going to take me before I had a chance to finish the memoir then maybe I could at least drive around in style. No point in having all this money if I can’t get some use out of it while I’m above ground.
For the next 7 months I wrote feverishly. At least 15 minutes a night, but many times I got so wrapped up in it that I went for far longer. Before long I had 70K words on paper and needed an editor to take things to the next level. I only knew one person that had published a book before, the President that I had been Chief of Staff for 4 years earlier. In January of 2020, I picked up the phone and made the call. It took a lot of courage for me to ask for support, especially given the risqué nature of my memoir, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done. He was so supportive and promptly connected me to his editor, who not only signed on to edit the book but also became my agent.
Once things started to take off with the writing, my mood changed. I no longer saw my job as torture, it was now a means to an end. It was the fuel that brought my dreams to life. It paid for my editor, it paid for my laptop, my photoshoot, my website, everything I needed to build my platform. I also stopped caring so much. I stopped working 3 hours a night and shifted that time to writing. I blocked out time during the day and let my team attend calls in my place so I could attend a speaker’s program. And you know what, somehow the work all still got done. I jumped out of bed in the morning and stayed up late igniting my passion and formulating my purpose.
The panic attacks began to diminish and I gained control over my mind to stop them when they would flare up. My family saw a notable change in me and our relationships improved (yes, even during COVID). I began integrating yoga and hip-hop dance workouts into my routine. I never felt (or looked) better!
In August of 2020, God / the universe, gifted me with the best present of all time. My position was eliminated at the company where I was employed! It was the first day of the rest of my life! To celebrate I took my boys to lunch and enjoyed a nice big margarita. We toasted to my new life - I wasn't looking back! Two days later I went to Goodwill and donated all of my suits. It felt so good to symbolically get rid of my old life (and help other women in need).
In the next month I completely reinvented myself, getting certified as a Life Coach and taking on a few clients. I took on Consulting work to pay the bills and fund my business, which also gave me the flexibility I needed. Two months later, I co-founded G.A.L. Talk with a fellow Life Coach and my purpose was fully formed. Sometimes I can't believe I'm doing it - I'm actually living my dream life.
I’ve been able to completely EDIT my life and I’m helping other women do the same. With my 4-step methodology you can EDIT Your Life™. If this sounds remotely familiar to you, you don’t have to suffer alone, like I did. You can find your purpose, get out of your midlife crisis, and write a new chapter to your life story.