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My Dreams and Mid-Life Crisis

My Dreams and Mid-Life Crisis

My mother used to say that nothing is engraved in stone. But that’s not true. Our life is full of engravings.


It’s 8 am. I’ve just bid farewell to my five-year-old boy and watched him trudge out the door to catch his ride to school. I survey the wreckage that defines my house: magic markers, pajamas, cheerios, paper airplanes, all strewn across the floor. It’s quiet – just the buzz of the air conditioner fills the space. And now would be a perfect time to do the dishes. But I have more lofty thoughts.

Today is my birthday.

And I acknowledge that I’m no longer young. Not that I’m old. But I’m approaching “mid-life.”

My once-upon-dreams of becoming a famous novelist by age 23 (like Carson McCullers) or the president of a company before age 30 or becoming an Olympic gold medalist have faded.

Doesn’t every child dream of being something extraordinary?

I will never be filthy rich or ridiculously famous for some ingenious thing I invented. I will never be a size two and I will never have hair down to my waist.

I can’t go back in time and smear on sunblock when ever I stepped outside. I missed my chance to get a PhD and never did make it to Broadway.

And whatever I put on hold 20 years ago is still on hold.

My mother used to say that nothing is engraved in stone. But that’s not true. Everything is. Every decision we make or fail to make, every path we choose, where ever we go in our lives — there’s no turning back, there’s no sanding the stone smooth until the choices we made disappear.

Our life is full of engravings.

I wander around the house. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m grateful to be alive and in good health, I would be melancholy, hankering for all those things I had wanted to do but never did, and for not being where I thought I had the potential to be in life.

For being … mediocre.

As I meander through the house, bemoaning missed opportunities and the ordinariness of it all, wondering if I’m having a mid-life crisis, I remember an extraordinary conversation I had with my 10-year-old son this morning.

“I want to work on my brachas (blessings before food),” he told me. “Can we do a prize chart to help motivate me?”

“What a great idea. And just in time for Elul.” I am reminded that Rosh Hashanah is fast approaching and with that the call of the shofar for self-improvement.

“But please don’t tell anyone,” he said embarrassed. “I’m so old. I should have done this a long time ago.”

I chuckled. The kid is only ten! He’s got years to improve himself, to achieve his goals. And he thinks he’s too old!

“Poppy, your great grandfather, started putting on tefillin when he was 92 years old! You’re never too old to make changes,” I told him.

I head back to the sink piled with dishes and left over gook from last night’s dinner, trying to be grateful for the mess that comes with life. I envision a stone -- chiseled, uneven, indented and engraved. And I say to myself, that stone is definitely more interesting than one that is perfectly sanded and smoothed out. It may not be a diamond, but it has its own beauty, its own profundity.

I may not have become what my childhood mind envisioned, but children grow up and dreams change. And missed opportunities are replaced with new ones. With adult ones. With mid-life ones.

Suddenly, I hear the sound of a shofar being blown from my neighbor’s house as he practices for the big day.

And I remind myself that in God’s world, it’s never too late.

September 17, 2016

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Visitor Comments: 10

(9) Ana, September 23, 2016 5:29 PM

Ever hear of Grandma Moses? Or Rabbi Akiva?

You are actually living many women's dreams - including the novelists, Phd holders, and stage actors.

(8) Avi, September 22, 2016 2:46 AM

I just had my 30th birthday this year and while 30 is still very young, I definitely jumped over the years of idealistic, carefree, and limitless potential that goes along with being a 20-something year old. I became frum at 22 and never had that 'cool job downtown' or a trendy yuppie loft with roommates. I didn't marry rich, I don't live in a classy upscale neighborhood, and my house isn't huge. from time to time I also feel the way you describe, and it's a relief to hear that others also experience this. I also look around at the mess and start to daydream about what could have been. But I also realize most of what could have been isn't as good as what is, and your article is a great reminder! I have a beautiful toddler and baby, we live in a small house in an average neighborhood with a modest income. My job (I run a daycare) is anything but cool and glamorous. It all has its difficulties and ups and downs but there is nothing more fulfilling than accomplishing what I have in 30 years. Frum wife, mother of 2, morah, community member, neighbor, etc. thanks for the perspective and looking forward to many more years of growth, ad meah v'esrim.

(7) Dena Gottlieb, September 21, 2016 8:36 PM

Great Article!

Thanks, Miriam! That was a great article!!! More! More!

(6) Lynn Finson, September 21, 2016 11:10 AM

poignant prose for thought....

Your life and the path it has taken is one of true nachas!
From one of your teachers who has watched you develop over the years. May there be more like you!!
Shana Tova Um'Tuka to you and your clan :)

(5) Anonymous, September 20, 2016 6:32 PM


So many dreams did not come to fruition but so many other blessings have come my way! Life does throw curve balls along the way but as I count my blessings I remind myself that Hashem sends us on circuitous ways for our own good.
Ms. Eliwatt, thank you for your article and best wishes for the new year. : )

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