Heather, a 40-something woman photographing the sunset

Rants and Rages of a 40-Something Woman

About a year ago I saw an article on Facebook titled, “The New Midlife Crisis: Why (and How) It’s Hitting Gen X Women.” The article, published on Oprah.com, is all about how 40-something women are basically losing their minds.

I rarely have patience for long-form writing — i.e. any article longer than 1,500 words. Who has that kind of attention span these days? But I read this article from beginning to end, more than once, and I can’t stop thinking about it even now. The article sums up the feelings I’ve been having for the past couple of years — a potent combination of anxiety, fear, gratitude, guilt, euphoria, frustration, despondency…and white-hot rage.

Generation X is the generation born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, sandwiched between the larger Baby Boomer and Millennial generations. Our parents were hippies and had fewer kids than their parents did. We were the children of divorce, the first latch-key kids. And the female half of Generation X was the first generation expected to “have it all” — a family, a high-powered career, and all the joys and struggles that go along with those two things.

Apparently Generation X women are also the first women to have documented mid-life crises. In the past, the mid-life crisis was the domain of the middle-aged husband — his wife simply had to grin and bear it, suffering in silence. But not my generation. We’re loud and proud about our mid-life struggles, suffering openly, all over social media.

I know what this looks like — a 40-something woman in a field, peacefully shooting pictures of the sunset. In fact, I’m a pent-up ball of frustration and rage. (Photo: Neil Jansson)

I could go on reflecting at length about the Oprah.com article. But I don’t write long-form think pieces and if you want to you can read it yourself. And anyway, the article provides no answers. There’s no solution to the 40-something female mid-life crisis, or even any solid hope it will someday go away. But it’s comforting to know I’m not alone.

So I thought I’d briefly share some of my own thoughts and feelings in this post. If you’re a 40-something woman — or even a 30-something woman or a 50-something woman, or any woman, or possibly even a man — you might relate.

Allow me to rant and rage a bit, for myself and for the common good.

40-Something Rants and Rages

  1. I have no right whatsoever to complain about anything whatsoever. I was born into a middle class American family. I’ve never been hungry. I received a great education. I’ve never been forced to flee my home or endure abuse. I live in a spacious house, with a comfortable life, in a country plagued by inequality. I am ridiculously fortunate and privileged. And yet here I am, feeling acute and persistent angst.
  2. I’ve had so many choices — choices that women who came before me didn’t have. I chose my career. I chose (sometimes badly) the men I dated and married and divorced. I chose — sort of accidentally but a choice nonetheless — not to have children. I chose to abruptly abandon my stable life at a pivotal moment and move across the world. I’ve experienced so much joy and heartache as a result of my choices, and wouldn’t change any of them. But my strange life choices have left me so fucking confused. I have no blueprint to follow.
  3. “You have such an amazing life!” people often say when they read my posts. And they’re right, I really do. But truth be told, I’m insanely anxious about money (I don’t know how to make it), relationships (I don’t know how to stay in them), my tenuous residence in South Africa, and one billion other things. (Yes, my residence in this country is tenuous and I’m very upset about it. But that is a story for another blog post.)
  4. I’m 44 years old and alone. I mean, I have great friends and pets and my own good company. But I’ve had a good handful of serious relationships in my life and all those relationships have ended, many of them due at least in part to my own unorthodox life choices.
  5. Being alone is great in many ways. As a woman I’m grateful for the opportunity to live an independent life of my choosing. But…what now? Menopause is lurking around the corner and I feel more and more like a crazy cat lady.
  6. My own woes aside, may I just say that I — like so many other women — am fucking angry about the state of the world. And no offense, Men, but I feel like a lot of the problems are kind of your fault. So please shape up, World (and Men). The Gen X women are peri-menopausal and we just might open up a can of whoop-ass on you.
Happiness or rage? You be the judge. (Photo: Michelle Nortje)

This post is dedicated to Meruschka, a bad-ass Generation X woman who left this world way too soon.

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40 Comments

  • Reply autumnashbough January 27, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    RIGHT?! I am so pissed. And I’m really tired of being told I shouldn’t be pissed because it’s either not healthy or alienating because I’m female. Men can be pissed. Women are supposed to be unthreateningly hurt and just cry.

    Bah. I am female, multitasking is my thing. I can sob tears of rage while raising a kid, feeding my cat, writing a blog post, rewriting a novel, and running a nonprofit. (It’s exhausting, though.)

    White men have messed up the world and yet somehow think they are entitled to keep messing it up instead of getting the fuck outta the way while the rest of us fix it. Spoiler alert, dudes: your selfish and greedy ways are killing us all. Sit down.

    • Reply 2summers January 27, 2019 at 6:58 pm

      I knew you’d have a good response to this.

  • Reply Kerry Wilson January 27, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    I am sorry your stay here is tenuous, it is normal, I am afraid, instead of embracing solvent educated immigrants we make it hard for them, but easy for the millions who come to use our free health care (although can you blame them it is the best in the region).

    I understand the midlife crisis concept completely – I just had my crisis early at 39. I was in the lucky position of having my dreams fulfilled , husband, kids , nice home, interesting ( if frustrating ) job. But still stuck with the daily grind, not enough sleep and needing to produce more than ever at work and having lost both parents missing them. I realised eventually I needed a) a new dream to chase and b) to allow myself to relax and enjoy what I had and finally c) to realise everyone has the daily drugery and not to resent it but also not let it define me.

    • Reply 2summers January 27, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      This is what I find so interesting about this Gen X crisis. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re rich or poor, single or married, childless or a mom…We’re all affected and kind of freaking out 🙂

  • Reply Carol January 27, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I’m a 60-something. No, all baby boomers didn’t follow the same pattern – there are some women who didn’t get married to raise a family ; some had careers (until the male corporate heads told them that at 60 they were too old to work), and hence ditto all your comments in your blog. I am also angry, & disappointed, anxious & on a good day, happy & thankful. As you said, there’s no solution, but it’s good to know I’m not alone!!

    • Reply 2summers January 27, 2019 at 7:49 pm

      Sorry I left out 60-something women! I know that basically all women will get this. I’m actually going to change that 🙂

  • Reply dizzylexa January 27, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    There is a saying that goes something like this – Help me to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. This has basically been my motto in life, so when I get angry, which does not happen to often, I place myself in a situation where either I can help someone in a less fortunate position than myself or try and think of a solution and how difficult it must be for someone to have to make that decision which affects us all. I must confess that it’s taken me a lifetime to reach this stage whereby life is too short to let things get to us.

    Yes I to agree with men having caused most of the worlds problems, heavens they do know how to complicate things for themselves and how awful it must be to continuously having to prove that they are the better species.

    • Reply 2summers January 27, 2019 at 9:15 pm

      Hahahaha. Oh yes, the Serenity Prayer – I know it well. I spent a lot of time in 12-step meetings over the years. But I definitely don’t remind myself of it often enough. Great words to live by.

  • Reply eremophila January 27, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    Oh yes, we have all been sold lies. Not given the tools to make informed choices, yet somehow finding ourselves functioning – and wanting MORE!
    I met a lovely man recently who’s living a simple traveling life, who is horrified by what men have done to and in this world. Again, I say it’s the system that needs to be overthrown, and for that anger is needed to be well focused and used for change.
    Begin with self, be the change, and extend it outward.
    And be kind, to self especially. xx

    • Reply 2summers January 28, 2019 at 11:59 am

      Thank you. That’s very good advice! I’m glad to still have you as a blogging friend after all these years 🙂

  • Reply Rosemary January 28, 2019 at 12:35 am

    I think this frustration that is so hard to properly identify rests with many of us male and female. I work in a busy London hospital and am surrounded by many doctors and nurses (many from mainland Europe) going through a daily grind with little prospect of promotion. Spain is particularly bad with few health professionals able to secure permanent jobs and going from one 6 month contract to the next often in a field not of their choosing. Equally I have married friends who are financially secure; healthy kids etc and still seem overwhelmed with anxiety and depression. I think the whole age thing might be a the root of all this. We are living longer but are expected to finish work at 65 when most of us are quite capable of working harder and longer. I don’t find the prospect of not working for 30 years appealing. Some older folk in their 90’s do work but mainly low level jobs.it is also not reasonable to work in the same field for 50 or 60 years without going a little crazy. I’m so sorry that your position in South Africa is so tenuous and it seems that you need practical solutions. What about re training and staying with a student visa? I am hoping to re train myself but I am not expecting the earth to move….
    Apologies for this long ramble!

    • Reply 2summers January 28, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      Thank you for the comment. It’s great to get other people’s perspectives!

  • Reply mvschulze January 28, 2019 at 4:31 am

    Sorry for your loss, for her passing, and the loss of all who have known her. M 🙁

    • Reply 2summers January 28, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      Thank you so much 🙂

  • Reply Lani January 28, 2019 at 10:17 am

    I watch a lot of standup comedy. Ali Wong joked about how feminism ruined everything because prior to that all she was expected to do was stay at home with the kids. Another comedian complained about how hard it is to meet a woman these days because women do everything for themselves now. He jokingly added that we should pick up some flowers and look lost.

    Regardless of whether or not you agree with them, I do feel like in the past, things were simpler because we had less choice. The ‘paradox of choice’ comes to mind (more choices = less happiness). But you bring up many good points, particularly not having a blueprint or roadmap. When we ‘choose our own adventure’ it’s hard to know what the F we’re doing.

    We also have more information at our disposal. I think that’s why you get the ‘over-parenting’ and the over-thinking which interestingly couples with the ‘just do it’ and ‘follow your dreams’ neon-light messages we received growing up.

    It’s funny (not haha funny) to think about being middle aged. There are times I wonder what would have happened if I did my life over again, and I bemoan my choices. If only…on the other hand, after reading/skimming that Oprah article, I’m remembering why I left the US for a life overseas…

    While I don’t have a husband or children or a house or retirement, I made the choice to pursue my dreams. Even if it amounts to nothing, how can it? I’d rather be in pursuit than have given up. But don’t get me wrong, giving up is not a bad thing either, sometimes it’s smart to quit. For me, I decided on this crazy life, and while it’s not stable or secure, it’s mine, and I’m still fighting, you know? Maybe all that self-help stuff is utter BS, but I’m glad that I tried to straighten myself out for a decade because now I feel like I’m not clawing at the walls as much.

    Or maybe you’re catching me on a good hair day, Heather. Thanks for opening up. I like reading more about YOU. Hugs.

    • Reply 2summers January 28, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      Aw, thanks Lani. I also had the same reaction when I read the Oprah article – I’m glad I opted out of so much of that. And yet we all have our own challenges, regardless of the choices we make. Anyway I’m going over to read YOUR post now 🙂

      • Reply Lani January 28, 2019 at 1:52 pm

        We do have our own challenges, sometimes I wonder if we could see what another was going through if we’d have more compassion for each other…well, here’s to trying out best. Hugs.

        • Reply Barb Sanford January 28, 2019 at 9:20 pm

          I wonder if we could see what others were going through, if we’d have more compassion for ourselves, too. When women are honest with each other about what they’re feeling, it seems to give other women permission to own to others and themselves that they sometimes feel that way too.

          • 2summers January 29, 2019 at 8:48 am

            I think that’s true.

  • Reply Ingrid Alice Irsigler January 28, 2019 at 10:55 am

    I feel you may be my soul sister. I am so fucking confused by it all.

    • Reply 2summers January 28, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      Girl, I hear you.

  • Reply Phileen January 28, 2019 at 11:12 am

    I echo your sentiments 100%. Glad I am not alone. Keep your head up and keep blogging. Your inspire me. Why do you think I “Love 2 hate Joburg”?

    • Reply 2summers January 28, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      I’m totally with you on that sentiment. Haha.

  • Reply foxtrotindigo January 28, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Men are mavericks, women are crazy cat ladies 😉 Choosing an unorthodox path isn’t easy. I never got married, I was a single mom for many years and now that my son’s almost finished varsity, I’m busy selling my home now and taking a parents’ gap year in the next year or so.
    Have to say, though, this perimenopause thing sucks… suffering in ways I never imagined, one of them being red eyes. When I went to the ophthalmologist, she said to me, “You know how when you’re a teenager, you get pimples. Well, at your age, you’re drying up”. Seriously. Haha!

    • Reply 2summers January 28, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      Hahahaha. Well I STILL get pimples! I guess maybe that issue will clear up once menopause rolls around.

  • Reply Lesley Clark January 29, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Hi Heather, this is totally off the current point. Just want to say that I was thinking about you yesterday and, thinking I own you a word of thanks.

    Here’s why:-
    Yesterday my dogs and I took a walk in Bez Valley Park. Never done so before, although I have lived in JHB since 1986.

    I had the courage and motivation to do so, because I am so inspired by your sense of adventure and exploring…..I even took a few photos. 🙂

    • Reply 2summers January 29, 2019 at 11:23 am

      Hi Lesley, awww I am so glad to hear that! Did you see the oldest house?

  • Reply thirdeyemom January 30, 2019 at 3:40 am

    Heather, I love this post in so many ways as I have been going through a midlife crisis of my own for the past two years and it really surfaced this year due to a lot of stuff going on. Aging parents (very hard because I love them so much), my kids getting older and freaking me out that they will leave in 4.5 and 6.5. years to college and I will be alone and sad, and now me turning 47 who has stayed home to raise them, a decision I never ever regret and the best job I could ever have, but the fact now that my days are long while they are at school and it is time for me to start rediscovering myself and a career. It is all terrifying to me and causes me endless anxiety. While I’m happily married to my best friend and love my kids who are doing wonderful, I still feel so much anxiety over the transition and changes ahead! So I found your article awesomely thought provoking and really wish more women and men would talk about this! I think we try to live in this social media perfect world yet so many of us are overwhelmed, angry, anxious and worried not only about our own lives but the future of our planet and mankind. I tell you, I hate knowing other people feel like this too but god it feels good to not know I’m alone and crazy. Keep writing and I love your raw honesty and courage to write this. I’ve debated for the past two years writing about how I’m feeling but am really too afraid. It is so hard. Thank you and if we lived closer I’d give you a huge hug! 🙂

    • Reply 2summers January 30, 2019 at 4:30 am

      Thanks so much Nicole. Of course I am reading this in the middle of the night (can’t sleep, haha) so can’t be coherent but I really appreciate your comments. Funny how we all feel kind of the same way even though our lives are so different 🙂

      • Reply thirdeyemom January 30, 2019 at 4:31 am

        Yes we are not alone! Melatonin has helped me a lot at night as well as meditation apps on my iPhone. Wish I lived closer as support is what we all need! Keep writing! You have a gift and a beautiful voice!

  • Reply thirdeyemom January 30, 2019 at 3:44 am

    Oh and also forgot to add, yes I get it. What on earth do I have to complain about? I have an education, I got to stay home and raise my kids, and in my own work as a writer I have seen so many people who don’t even have safe water to drink or enough to eat. I feel so guilty about having the “crisis” yet I also do believe that our world has changed with so much pressure on men and women and also so much bad news in your face that it can be overwhelming. So yes it is a complicated issue and I truly appreciate you writing about it and everyone else commenting here as I’ve read them all.

  • Reply Eva Melusine Thieme January 31, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Can totally relate. Somewhat comforting to hear others “complain” too. Because yes, your life DOES seem so desirable. And yes, we really don’t have anything to complain about, and yet we DO wake up at night slightly panicky. Well said, all of it, and thanks for the link to the Oprah article, I’m devouring it!

    • Reply 2summers January 31, 2019 at 9:43 pm

      There’s something so good about that article.

  • Reply Okie Girl January 31, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    Oh man did I need to read this. I just started my career and absolutely love it, but feel myself getting bitchy about the mundane-ness of it all. I should not be complaining because I have made it to such a great point! Thank you for sharing your feelings on it. It helps knowing I am not alone.

    • Reply 2summers January 31, 2019 at 10:13 pm

      I’m glad to hear you get it. Life can be so frustrating.

  • Reply Girl from the North February 22, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    From one 44 year old woman to another — you are spot on. I am similar to you in may ways — 44, no kids, living in a free country, friends, a dog, my own home etc etc. But I’m confused about my life, and sick of the world we are currently living in. Love your post.

    • Reply 2summers February 22, 2019 at 11:11 pm

      Aw, thanks. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  • Reply 40andfeelinit April 5, 2019 at 1:14 am

    Love.This. All of it. Amen sister and stay strong. This… “So please shape up, World (and Men). The Gen X women are peri-menopausal and we just might open up a can of whoop-ass on you.” is amazing and it made me want to hysterically laugh and punch someone simutaneously. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Reply 2summers April 5, 2019 at 8:17 am

      Hahahaha. My job is done!

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