Why would someone quit her job and move to a place some 1000 km away from friends and family? When I see it in electronic ink, it appears like a very weird thing to do, like a symptom of a midlife crisis.
And lets face it, it probably is. Because even though I hate to admit it, I am 38 years old by now. Most of my friends have kids, some even have teenagers. Some own houses, and summer houses. When I was 33, I thought I would be in a similar situation when I was 38 (except for the teenagers), but things didn’t turn out that way. Instead, I got divorced, bought a full suspension mountain bike, some alpine touring gear and headed for the mountains. Instead of taking time to nurture the next generation, I have spent the past five years nurturing my inner child.
I think that everyone should have the right to decide how they want to lead their life; whether they choose to live with a partner of the same or opposite sex, or if they choose to not have steady partner at all or many at the same time. I think that it is up to each person to decide if s/he wants to settle down or move around, and most importantly, if s/he should have kids or not. But it’s not always so easy to make such life decisions. First of all, one has to deal with the social expectations (the stupidest argument I’ve ever heard for why I should have kids is that I should take responsibility for keeping my family genes alive, especially since my sister has two kids already). Second, we need to deal with our own expectations and lack of information on how we will experience the consequences of the choices we have not yet made. Because, lets face it, we really cannot know if we will like having kids or not before we have them. We can’t because we haven’t had any before! We can get an idea based on interactions with other people’s kids and based on our preferences for other stuff that we have actually experienced, but we cannot know for sure. The only thing that we can be sure is that we will probably rationalize our decision so that we can convince ourselves that the decision made was the best one (See e.g., Aronson, 1989 and Gilbert, 2005 for some proper references).
Sorry, I didn’t mean to write a lengthy post about whether or not to have children, but the thing is that I struggled for quite some time with the decision on whether or not I should have children. In the end, I decided that I would not, but I still from time to time wonder if I will regret that choice (just as a wonder if I would regret it if I actually did get kids).
So I never got kids. That sort of means that I missed out on a clear cut change in life that most people go through. And I do think that most people need change. Without change, we go a bit numb. Heck, without any change at all, we actually stop noticing things. We were evolutionarily coded to like change in reasonable amounts. Without change caused by new mini-people or purchases of big wooden structures, I think I felt a need to create a new life phase in another way, such as moving to the arctic.
As with all other choices, I had no idea if it was the right one before I made it. There were definitely a whole lot of pros and cons. I still have no idea if I made the right decision. I know that I miss my friends and family in Umeå like crazy and that I have already met a bunch of people here that I really really like. I know that I am terrified of making an ass of myself at my new job, and that I can’t wait to kick off some new research projects and meet my new colleagues, and ski with them. I’m also terrified of violating any unwritten (or written) rules for how to behave in this new country and that I really enjoy learning Norwegian. I know that I really miss cheap beer, cheese, fruit and veggies, and I love that I can buy fresh fish for nothing (or just pick it up myself).
Finally I’m both terrified and excited beyond what words can describe about the coming winter. Everything has pros and cons. I’m both stoked and scared shitless that I decided to move here. Perhaps that is what a midlife crises is all about.