Puberty hits around age 12 through 18 or so. Starts earlier or later for some, completes earlier or later for others, but all in all our teen years are wrought with transition and change: physical, emotion and mental.
There is, as my dear friend Tammy would say, a second puberty: midlife.
Some go through crisis here and get a new job, sports car or spouse to ease the struggle.
The midlife puberty can last as long as adolescent puberty: starting around age 39 or 40 and continuing through to our late forties. Again, earlier for some and later for others. The conditions, however, are the same: dealing with raw emotions, hormonal and physical changes, relationships with others, relationship with self, where we fit in, who we are, and what we have to offer the world.
In second puberty themes are often: disappointment with where you are in life, your work, health, love life, home life, views of self, and seeking some greater meaning to life. It’s the same rush of energy that comes in first puberty. This energy is trying to find a creative outlet, a passionate purpose, a free-thinking freedom, self-expression.
Often we try to resolve our disappointments at this stage by changing one or all of our conditions: home, partner, friends, work, car, diet and exercise.
But the answer is much the same in second puberty as in first.
What do we want for our kids in their teenage years?
To emerge with a deep sense of self. A guiding confidence. A true north. An inner strength. A reservoir of happiness and a healthful mindset that will see them through life.
There is a sweet movie entitled My Life in Ruins, starring Nia Vardalos. In the movie Nia’s character, Georgia, is told she has no Kefi. Greek words, like Sanskrit, carry not only a meaning but a feeling, a deep expression and even story.
Kefi is happiness, joy, love of life. Your reason to get out of bed in the morning. But it’s not just one thing. It’s not one job that inspires your Kefi or one person. It’s a wellspring inside you. It’s the spirit of your happiness. That even on a bad day or during struggle keeps you in love with life.
This is the point of midlife puberty: to find your Kefi.
That place inside you, that wellspring of vitality for life. You can try to do so through cars, houses, new spouses or jobs but that’s not Kefi.
Turning inward through practices like yoga, qigong, meditation, nature, art, music, and play can help rediscover this passion for life that we often knew by the end of first puberty.
Sometimes it wakes up through travel or hiking or surfing or gardening. Nature is a great friend of Kefi. Sometimes it wakes up through dancing and singing and hula-hooping and writing. Through community service. Through river rafting or sidewalk chalk. Through a yearlong sabbatical or running a weeklong kids’ camp.
These years of second puberty may seem long and often painful, with great bursts of Eureka moments, valleys and peaks. But don’t rush these years. Take your time. Be gentle and patient with yourself and those around you. Because what you find here will set the tone for the second half of your life.
What you find here is your Kefi.