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Mid-life reality

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TO BE OR NOT TO BE With careers and relationships on the fast lane, is an early burnout inevitable?
TO BE OR NOT TO BE With careers and relationships on the fast lane, is an early burnout inevitable?

Highflying careers, astronomical salaries and a premature burnout. Caught in the web of skewed priorities?

It is common to find oneself slowing down halfway through life. Reality suddenly dawns on us as we are forced to come to terms with the transitory nature of our existence. All of a sudden, one begins to ask oneself: "What have I been doing for so long? Who am I? What do I really want in life?" A mid-life transition is in the offing. With longer average life expectancy, the term mid-life transition is used in a broad sense, and need not necessarily occur in the middle.

Not like before

Earlier generations lived a life centred on the goal of earning enough to run a family and save for a rainy day. It was only while lazing around in the balcony of the home one purchased with post-retirement savings, that one recognised the amount of valuable time lost in asinine pursuits. Says 59-year-old Bharath: "Youngsters can afford to take risks and pursue alternative careers, something that was unthinkable in my time. Back then, opportunities were scarce in the conservative economy of our times." If the leisure of retirement sowed the seeds of self-actualisation in the last generation, it is the burnout from the rat race that is triggering it all for the present one. With competitive salaries and investments in mutual funds and insurance schemes, today's youth are not willing to lose sleep over mundane family economics. They seem to be coping with the transition differently.Some decide to break away from the monotony. Says Sanjay, a senior manager in his early 30s, about his decision to take a long break from work: "At one stage, I had been working continuously for five full years and reached a stage where I could not think of working any more. I took time off and indulged in my passion for travelling. I was very sure that this would help refresh me before I returned to work, and that was exactly what happened."There are others who make the big decision to give it all up, instead spending time pursuing hobbies that interest them. Avinash (name changed), director of a firm and in his early 40s, decided to quit well ahead of his actual retirement. He says: "The desire to pursue my passion - reading and writing - and stop conforming to society's norms provided the spark. The nature of my job, extreme stress and the associated health risks fuelled the urge even more. And the financial ability to take the risk has aided the decision."Reveals a couple, one of whom gave up a highflying career to pursue a less stressful, part-time job: "With very little time on our hands, we were struggling to keep the lines of communication open. We even began to question the meaning of the relationship that we were in. Finally we decided to sort it out in order to save our marriage and our children in the process."The implications of the transition are more pronounced on the relationship front, says Jaya Mala Madathil, Assistant Professor of Counselling and Human Services College of Education, University of Colorado. "In my work, I have never met anyone who wished that they had worked more. Nowadays, we see many individuals who are `married to their jobs'. For them, realisation dawns when the parents are no more and the children have moved out and are busy with their own lives."The transition has varying effects. Knowing that it is a natural progression reduces the resistance associated with it. A positive attitude and a constructive approach will help avert a crisis and make the changeover a smooth one.B. DIVYA VARMA

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