Relevant at 50: Dealing with a Midlife Crisis

Having a mid-life crisis is not unique to me. Most of my friends have had it in one way or another. The question is how you handle it, what you do with it.

In my case, the first signs came a few years early. Four years ago, at 46, I decided it would be a good time to get in shape. The company I was working at had a running group and the minimum distance to qualify for it was 2 kilometers. That sounded like a lot since the last time I had run in any serious manner, was back in 1989 during the IDF Officer’s Training Course. Bravely, I joined and sweated it out. It was important for me to show these younger guys that I could still do it. I’d be lying if I said it was easy, but less than six months after starting, I ran a 10K race in Raanana, the first of many races in which I would soon participate. I loved the fanfare and the sense of accomplishment (both physical and mental) was the strongest I have had since passing that Officer’s Training Course way back then. I was hooked. Since then, I have run three half marathon races and have become a consistent runner. I am probably in the best physical shape I’ve been in more than 20 years.

(By the way, for all of you potential runners out there, I want to recommend a fantastic book (in Hebrew) written by a cardiologist, Dr. Ami Scheinfeld, who also started running late, at age 51. The book, called Larutz Mehalev (Run from the Heart), is his diary tracking his journey (like mine) from nothing to running 10k and now a  half marathon race, mixed with input from his perspective a cardiologist. Great book! Here’s an article about Ami and his book in Globes.)

But my mid-life crisis also had a professional side to it as well which was making itself known around the same time. Having worked for many years in hi-tech marketing, I felt I needed a change. I had hit a glass ceiling in my Marketing Communications position and felt I was too young to throw in the towel and admit that this was as far as I’d go. I felt I had a lot more to give, and I had a calling to do something for the community and the country. An opportunity came up to run the Aliyah delegation in North America for the Jewish Agency on shlichut in New York. This was a great chance to do something very Zionistic, to give back to the American Jewish community in which I was raised and to spend some time with my family that I have not seen often enough since making Aliyah back in 1988.

While preparing to return to Israel and still in New York, I found a great job through a friend in an Israeli hi-tech company, not something that happens often, and I found myself back in the hi-tech world rather unexpectedly. Nine months later, following layoffs, I found myself without a job, also unexpectedly, at age 50, and back to the original midlife crisis decision of several years before.

Looking for work at 50 isn’t simple. I recently posted a couple of blog posts with tips from my job search these past two months on this blogspace. (Here’s one. And here’s another.) The experience gave me plenty of time to think about what I want to do when I grow up, or more to the point, where do I want to spend the latter part of my career. When confronted with a choice between senior marketing jobs in hi-tech start-ups or non-profit organizations, I chose the latter. At this point in my life, finding passion in what I do, believing in a mission and working for a cause whose goal is not bottom-line profit but helping others, were a stronger calling. (In my new position at Mibereshit-Masa Yisraeli the mission is helping our youth explore their Jewish roots and ties to the State of Israel.)  the decision was a chance to not only make a new start at the ripe old (and experienced) age of 50 but to do something Zionistic, and important for the community.

Our lives take us down interesting paths. I have been blessed so far in my career and hope for that blessing to continue. To be sure, I have always believed that representing Israeli hi-tech is very much a Zionist endeavor. But now it’s time to contribute in another direction. I have fully embraced this midlife crisis as an opportunity to do things I have always wanted to do and to make a difference. After all, (and pardon the cliché) today is the first day of the rest of my life.

About the Author
Barry grew up in New York and made Aliyah in 1988. He reached the rank of LTC in the IDF. He is a seasoned Marketing and PR professional.