Freedman’s latest book purports to be about midlife transitions and challenges. Ultimately, it boils down to a lesson: Midlife is just another life transition. We can learn from other people’s stories, but only up to a point, because each of us has a unique story to live. There’s no clear pathway and we’re still looking for a how-to manual.
The book really begins with chapter 2, where Freedman quotes Joseph Campbell “Midlife is when you get to the top of the ladder and discover it is leaning against the wrong wall.
He then gives a good example of a woman named “Meredith Mackenzie,” who “created her own gap year” when she took a 2-year retreat in a small house. She had already had one shift – gone to law school and realized she didn’t want to be a lawyer. She moved into a 300-sq ft converted garage in Kernville, Nevada. There’s a great quote on page 24: ” The change in life directions is usually much messier in real life than in magazine features.”
That’s the best part of the book and I wish he’d pursued it. He spends a lot of time noting that we have few guidelines for the new midlife.
I liked p 85 where his mother in law defines her life stage with, “I’m on my next to last dog.”
The weakest part of the book comes in the suggestions for what “we as a society” ought to be doing. The feasibility of these ideas is way beyond the control of most of us. The majority of readers will want to know the answers to 2 questions: “Who else is dealing with these issues?” and, “What can I learn from them?”
The Big Shift gives partial answers. Many exemplars come from strong corporate backgrounds so they have a lot to bring to the table when they enter the non-profit arena. Others opt for education, exploration and special programs. It seems to be a combination of luck and energy … exactly the same qualities you need for a life transition at any age.