Midlifers are masters at outgrowing things

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.

We are masters at outgrowing things. After all, we’ve been doing it all our lives.

We outgrew partying on the weekdays, noisy bars, the “one-more-for-the-road” shot of tequila. We outgrew shoulder pads. Big hair. Slouch socks. We moved beyond disco, funk, pop. Or maybe we didn’t. But we don’t listen to them as much.

We’ve also learned how to outgrow harder stuff.

We outgrew relationships — friends, lovers, partners.

Many of us have outgrown our jobs. Our careers. The stuff we may have worked hard to achieve.

We outgrow dreams. Our bucket list. The things we once thought we want to acquire.

And every so often, we outgrow ourselves. We outgrow the vision that we once had of the person we wanted to be.

“There is a way that you can get stuck doing something that you’re good at and it can keep you away from doing the next thing that maybe, you’re even more meant to do.”
Annie Schuessler | Second Breaks

Sometimes, it just doesn’t do it for us anymore.

I carried one vision of my professional self for the longest time. The business suit-clad high-heeled person with an impressive job title, who occupied a corner office, and boasted of a calendar filled with breakfast meetings and lunch meetings and dinner meetings — a calendar so full it needed an assistant to oversee.

I can’t remember who or what or how that picture got planted in my head. But there it was, since college. And it was the vision I pursued for many years, and golden hours, and more weekends than I would ever admit. For the longest time, I was proud of that vision. It was the fire that simultaneously consumed me and kept me going.

Until one day, the flame died and it stopped being the reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Midlife is about discovery and new understanding and outgrowing.

One thing about midlife that surprised me was how much of myself I would discover. That there were parts of myself I hadn’t yet known or couldn’t hear. And that when these parts were allowed to have a voice — boy, did they have a lot to say.

Who knew there were all these parts of myself that needed TO BE, too.

And that realization was both joyful and sad, beautiful and scary.

Because there’s a part of outgrowing that’s hard.

It’s the letting go piece. The willingness to release. To unclench the fist, to relax the fingers and just … let… go.

Terrifying.

But also, exciting and such a proud moment for ourselves.

MIDLIFE CUES: For the busy midlifer, a weekly dose of nudges and curated resources to help you feel better, do better, and be your best in your middle years. 

BOTTOM LINE

Getting older means getting wiser about who we are. It’s about hearing ourselves more than we ever did. Understanding ourselves better. Accepting ourselves—flaws and creases included. And through all this new understanding, we may come to the brilliant conclusion that we’ve moved on and away from things we once held dear.

We are masters of outgrowing. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. But knowing we’ve always been doing this makes it easier.

In the words of Glennon Doyle, “We can do hard things.”


SOME SUGGESTED READINGS

  • You know what stops many of us from embracing that we’ve moved on and outgrown certain things? Other people’s opinions. It’s easy to say “stop worrying about what other people think”, but you know what? It’s hard, right? The writer of this HBR article talks about coming up with a personal philosophy statement to remind us why we’re doing what we’re doing… which hopefully, has nothing to do with other people’s opinions! How to Stop Worrying About What Other People Think of You
  • “Blowing up your life has always seemed like a romantic idea — shrugging off all the things that were weighing you down, wiping your slate clean, actually doing the thing you always kept tucked in the back of your mind. Trying your hand at a job in a totally different industry. Picking up and moving somewhere new, just for the thrill of the change. […] Is there a realistic, responsible way to act to become that new version of ourselves? The Responsible Way to Blow Up Your Life

ABOUT LOU BLASER

A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.

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