Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I'm 38 and have the strongest feeling that I'm not on the right path for me. I've felt it for almost six years but kept moving forward while I tried to figure out why I feel so stuck and unfulfilled.
I'm not depressed, and I've gone to therapy, where, although I had some childhood issues from growing up with a borderline-personality parent, they say I'm fine. I've felt this angst on and off through my life during transitions, and then, poof, it's gone. This time around, it feels like a giant flashing red sign, and it's not going away.
I could give specifics on why - I think it's because I'm in a sexless marriage and wanted kids, or my career has stalled - but I'm not sure it helps because I still can't decide what to do about it.
I've been looking at my savings lately and frequently think about just going somewhere, alone, for an undetermined amount of time. Is this crazy? Is this what a midlife crisis feels like and I need to just suck it up and go to yoga more?
Answer: I don't think going away - as opposed to "running away" - to help solve a problem is crazy at all. If anything, the crazy idea is to stay put and try to find an answer despite having done just that, unsuccessfully, for years.
The brain just gets in ruts sometimes - we all have experience with getting so stuck on something that the only way to solve it is to stop trying. There's the math problem you couldn't do last night but that makes perfect sense today in study hall, the name you couldn't remember in conversation that bubbled up in your half-sleep at 3:30 a.m., the movie you thought was wonderful until you saw it again 10 years later, when you were 10 years better at life.
So, yes, feed your mind some new information, and see whether it starts producing more useful results.
As a precaution, take time away that doesn't force your hand in any way - say, by getting you fired. Take the time your employer will grant you, and leave enough in your savings to finance whatever any epiphany tells you must be your next move. It's not about running away, it's just about changing your view. Good luck.
Comment: I am 39 and found hiking. It has saved me. Seriously. I have the job issue, the wife and kids, the responsibilities, a feeling like I am missing something and running out of time. I take a day off here and there and hit a trail, for me. It is therapy.
Reply: This brings up something else. Improving the way we think isn't just about changing what we see. Movement itself can pry loose some emotional insights that sitting still never could. Hikes (or walks, dance lessons, etc.) together could help the writer and her spouse, for example, understand each other better. Thank you for weighing in.