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Posted on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Midlife crisis or "Is this all there is?" moment

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I like my job, but if I won the lottery tomorrow I'd quit. It's not like I'm saving the world. I love my house, but if I could afford it, I'd move to a warmer climate. I loved my wife, but I wish she'd just marry the guy she's shacked up with to stop the alimony payments (fat chance). I'm healthy, employed, have great friends, travel some; it's an OK life. So why do I daydream about blowing it all up and teaching scuba on a beach in Tahiti?

-- Midlife Crisis?

Because you're sane?

You're having an "Is this all there is?" moment, and, I dunno, I think they're useful things to have. Midlife, teens, 20s, they're not confined to any one age, nor should they be. I also suspect people teaching scuba on Tahitian beaches have them.

So, use yours, and try to figure out toward what purpose you're making all the choices you're making right now. "If I could afford it I'd do something else" isn't a real (or, I should say, complete) answer. You have a lot of latitude that you're not using, so be totally honest with yourself about the reasons you're not using it. Surely there is one corner of one warmer climate, for example, that you could afford to occupy.

Think of it as a complete-this-sentence quiz:

"The real reason I'm not 'blowing it all up' is that I actually like (blank)."

The security of feeding a retirement account? Your neighbors and friends? Having a job you're good at and know inside out? The idea of staying put vs. job-hunting? Having deep roots?

Whatever you put in that blank, it's not a ball-and-chain obligation, it's a choice.

When you see your choices for what they are, you put yourself in a position either to embrace them or change them. If the outcome is productive for you, then embrace it: "I work at this job because experience tells me I am happiest without a lot of risk or uncertainty." (Ahh.)

Or, alternately, if you're standing in your own way, admit it: "I stay with this job because I tell myself I can't afford to quit it, but that may be an excuse because I'm just afraid to try something new."

Either way, following this line of thinking puts you in a stronger position. You'll stop wanting to blow it all up, or you'll recognize exactly where that impulse comes from -- which, in turn, allows you to plot out some non-drastic steps toward the life you have in mind.

--0-- --0-- --0--

Dear Carolyn:

My girlfriend and I haven't been intimate yet, but we have talked somewhat about our respective histories. Basically, how does one ask about getting tested for STDs without totally screwing this relationship up?

-- A Variation on the Numbers Question

The only connection this has to the numbers question is that a health conversation is necessary anytime someone's number is more than 0. That's it.

How 'bout just telling her your recent conversation inspired you to go get tested? It's a lot easier to ask her to discuss and do something that you, without prompting, have already discussed and done.

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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