Saturday, May 13, 2017

Life Reimagined: The Science, Art and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty: An Audio Book Review

I stumbled upon this audio book perusing my local library's online catalog, and thought it would be perfect for my weekly commute.  It was perfect, and quite honestly, it woke me up a bit.  

I am in midlife.  I'm 50; childless, unmarried (but in a long term relationship), and oftentimes puzzled at how my life has turned out so far.  Where exactly did I make the turns that led me to this place?  How, quite frankly, did my life turn out so completely different than I had hoped?  Could I possibly craft the rest of my life by thoughtful planning and reflection?

Barbara Bradley Hagerty is an NPR reporter who had a few midlife crises of her own.  It led her to spend a year traveling the country, talking to experts and some every day people about what we expect from life in our 40's, 50's, and 60's.  What she found surprised her.  It seems that there is a natural dip in our happiness that begins in our 40's.  Some people think it's a midlife crisis, but when scientists actually dug into the question of midlife crisis, they found out that people weren't having a midlife crisis at all--it's all bogus. 

 We have a natural dip that occurs when we reach an age where we re-examine where we've been, where we want to go, and what hasn't worked out.  We look at our jobs, our relationships, our dreams.  We realize that we won't get that big promotion; maybe we've worked in a career for 20 years and realize the passion and love is gone; our drive calls us to seek something else.  We are seeing our parents age and pass on; we are the next generation up.  It's a big wake up call.  With luck, we'll have another healthy 25-35 years--so what are we going to do to make them the best we can make them?  

But guess what?  People in their 60's are the happiest they've ever been in their lives.  That natural dip climbs again, and by refocusing our lives around those we love, building those relationships, giving of ourselves and letting go of the material stuff, we are at our most content and most free.  We cherish those moments, small and random, where life is most sweet.  We explore our creativity; we cherish our friends and family.  And what's great about all of this is that science actually backs this up.  

I recognized myself in some of the things Barbara talks about:  I returned to graduate school at 46 after the loss of my sister; at 48 I graduated and began a new career as a librarian.  Shortly after I began my new career, my mother passed away.  My father had already passed away when I was in my late 30's; I felt a bit lost and orphaned.  My parents were gone.  What did that mean to me?  How was it going to define my life going forward?  

My partner takes care of his aging parents and I do what I can to help him.  We've discussed what we want to do next with our lives, after the inevitable happens.  With no children between us, and no one to answer to, we will be free to pursue his dreams, long put on hold.  And in doing that, I will be able to pursue my dreams alongside him.  So for now, we plan, and we cherish the moments we have together.  It is a bittersweet time, and painful moments are on the horizon.  But, as Barbara has discovered, those snapshot moments of happiness are more frequent, and even sweeter than you can imagine. 

I highly recommend this book.  I enjoyed the audio so much, I bought the paperback so I could mark it up, discuss it with my partner, and keep it on my bookshelf.  

Rating:  5/6 for a fascinating look at a second phase of life that can be just as exciting and rewarding as those heady days of our youth.  It will definitely make you think about your life; you'll find yourself in the pages of this book. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.



  1. Oh wow. I recognised some things in myself, just from your review! I am in my fifties and had my happiness dip in my forties. Lucky me - I didn't have to wait until my sixties to re-attain my happiness. I am definitely adding this to my (ever growing) book wishlist.

  2. Some truly interesting info. Thanks a lot for taking the time to write this