Thoughts on the Midlife Transition

A dark figure walks through a foggy wood.

In his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes psychologist William Bridges has this to say about people in the midlife transition:

The ancient Hindu image of the lifetime has an important transition point around the time of the birth of one’s grandchildren. Until that time, one has been in the House-holder stage of life, a time in which self-fulfillment and personal development have involved participating in social roles, family life, and the world of work. But now you are ready for a change … that of the Forest-Dweller.

As the Hindu name of this life stage suggests, the transition into it is one of turning away from the world’s business and going into the solitude of the forest for a time of reflection and study … which is not the same as our retirement because it is a transition into something, not just a transition from something.

I went digging for that passage this morning because of something odd I’ve been noticing: my growing need for solitude, and a desire for turning inward, away from the zeitgeist, noise, crowds, and anything that feels like shallowness.

I’ve been treating my “new” introvertedness as a phase, something to overcome. Now, I’m wondering if the switch is permanent and getting stronger. But there’s some comfort in knowing my transition is normal, just another developmental stage, like puberty.

Perhaps it’s time I stopped fighting myself? Because there’s nothing wrong with quiet, or solitude, or taking a step back from society’s frenetic hustle. And while my time “dwelling in the forest” may be more figurative than literal…

I may as well hoist my pack and start walking.

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