Here are some suggestions from Paul Mullins. Please check out his blog at http://paulmullins.wordpress.com/
My thoughts are probably less about how to “accelerate” a midlife crisis as much as they are ways to minimize regret over the journey, avoid fixation on the destination alone, and embrace creativity.
- Trust your curiosity: Older, “non-conventional” students come to my University office all the time acknowledging that they always wanted to be an archaeologist, but they chose a path strenuously advocated by their parents, significant other, or a high school teacher. Their heart was never in the logical career path, and they realized it nearly every step of the way, but they felt duty-bound to support their family, pay their rent, or feed their cat. Responsibility matters, and there are moments to be sober and rational, but obey our wandering voice, and even if you do not become an artist/archaeologist/author/etc after years of dreaming about it, at least feed the fire.
- Read, watch, and listen to everything: Sure, Shakespeare is a classic of Western literature, but Batman is enthralling too; Rashomon is a great movie, but The Jerk and Legally Blonde are pretty brilliant as well; Mozart is sublime, but there is something to be said for Metallica or Lady Gaga; a trip to the art museum is valuable and engaging, but a comic book store is enchanting too. There is something socially and culturally meaningful in all those things, but there is also something completely consequential to be learned from the seemingly mundane or even trite world around us.
- Creativity is a process: It sounds hackneyed and perhaps even obvious, but artists learn their craft through intense, constant, and wide-ranging curiosity. Writers read constantly and widely and appreciate the complex and challenging craft of writing; musicians listen to everything and seek out new sounds and instruments; artists have an eye that is always reflecting how to represent the world; good scholars read well outside their research area and reach beyond traditional scholarship alone. It is not just about producing a certain number of words everyday: Writing goals are great and some of us need the focus, and maybe when musicians are locked in studios with deadlines they suddenly are inspired, but usually creativity and inspiration are flashes that cannot be easily predicted or controlled. If you’re thinking about the things that make you curious and interested, then you are being creative and productive.
- Every person is compelling: If we have learned nothing else from Behind the Music, it is that everybody’s life is fascinating and compelling: even the anonymous members of fossil bands turn out to have enchanting life stories. Everybody’s story matters and is consequential.
- Go new places: I write this while visiting Finland for six months, and every moment is an ethnographic experience: the radiating heated floors and omnipresent saunas are interesting experiences of warmth in a place that is otherwise universally chilly; every meal is a bit of a mystery consumed on faith; the constant coffee breaks bond normally reserved Finns in ways talkative Americans rarely are connected; and Finnish schools are amazingly relaxed for a nation that tests as well as anywhere on earth. Most of us need not go overseas for months at a time, but step outside your comfort zone.
Many thanks to Paul for these. Why don’t you contribute. Simply e-mail David at email@example.com.
Thank you for reading.