I have often been teased by some of my friends and family that my purchase of a Harley-Davidson at 46 years old was the inevitable product of a midlife crisis. Though I originally denied it, I have often pondered whether or not there was some shred of truth to the accusations. From the perspective of my accusers; at the ripe old age of 46, I purchased an expensive motorcycle and over a 7 year period, I inexplicably covered my arms and body in tattoos and to this day, I cannot be reached by phone, telegraph or carrier pigeon on any given weekend. If I testified to all of that in the court of cliché, no jury in their right mind would let me off. Therefore, how can I possibly deny that I am not in the throes of a full-blown, off-the-rails midlife crisis? The answer is simple, I no longer deny it.
One of the main characteristics of a midlife crisis is that one assumes that their midlife is about to be eventful (and usually in some negative way). Major changes in our lives such as our children growing up and leaving the house, or facing and surviving a major illness, often prompt us to reflect on our life choices. Whenever we look inward, we have to further reflect on what we have achieved and ask ourselves, “Has it been enough” or “Has it been the life I really wanted to live?” Therefore, it is most often when we get to that mid-stage of our lives that we worry over our unachieved goals and our rapidly approaching mortality. This in turn prompts some of us to “seize the day” as it were, before we come to our inevitable end. Such a deadline, for instance, may convince a middle-aged person to promptly identify the most appropriate vehicle for change i.e. buy that expensive motorcycle they have always wanted and proceed to get busy realizing their, until now, unlived lifestyle. I must admit that I can somewhat relate to this, and if I were to really zoom in on some of my choices in recent years, I would have to give some weight to the possibility that I had probably tussled with some of my midlife demons when I made them.
In my defense, though, I did not feel my life was in crisis at the time I made the decision to purchase a motorcycle in my late 40’s; I just always wanted to own a Harley but ironically, I simply could not afford the one I wanted until I got older. I have always had motorcycles and dirt bikes around me when I was growing up and I rode street bikes into my 30’s, but like many of my friends, I had to take a break from motorcycling to focus on career and family. When I returned to riding, though, I did so with all of the same enthusiasm I had shown for it in those earlier years. I also discovered something different about my motorcycle purchase this time around; the Harley-Davidson family is a motorcycle culture like no other I had ever experienced when I was riding metric. These motorcycles have a soul like no other, and I think that anyone who rides and loves them share a secret bond that most people will never understand. It is a culture that I was wholly unprepared for, but one that I quickly embraced.
In fact, as a result of that first Harley purchase (and subsequent adoption into the culture), my whirlwind out of control life that family and outside friends observed has been more of a boon than a cliché. It has brought me new experiences and friendships unlike any others I have enjoyed in my pre-midlife crisis (yes that is a thing too). Moreover, my wife started riding again and soon won a Sportster in the Buddy’s Bash raffle (then just as quickly traded it up for a bike that would allow us to ride longer distances together). Shortly after that, I purchased my second Harley, and eventually another for our daughter. Now, both of our children ride and our newest grandson and granddaughter are appropriately name “Ryder” and “Harlee. In the years since, I have ridden more miles and seen more of this country by motorcycle than my younger years could have ever afforded me. I have shared roads and moments with a new biker family that have been at once beautiful and thrilling. My wife and I have parlayed our mutual midlife crises into a life of travel and adventure (both together and with our midlife motorcycle friends). Call it what you will, but whatever the midlife catalyst was for all of the positive change in our lives, I am thankful for it.
Still, let’s say for the sake of argument that all of those choices were prompted by a midlife crisis—“give the people what they want” as they say. Then I would maintain I had stumbled upon the perfect prescription; because of one motorcycle purchase, I have truly lived these past 7 years and I could not possibly look back on any of those experiences as times either spent in or prompted by crisis. Looking back on it all now, I honestly believe my midlife crisis was really no crisis at all, but more of a midlife awakening.
So in closing, I just want to say one last thing on the subject; if you find yourself at that midlife crossroads and any of the things written here have resonated with you in some positive way, then I say embrace your midlife awakening; buy that Harley-Davidson motorcycle you have always wanted, live the life yet lived and enjoy every mile of it!