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Quotes on the 'midlife crisis' and the sense of self

“This is the essence of the story of Pinocchio, I take it, who is a puppet and a person at the same time. Or, better: he is a puppet who does not know that he is already a person.”
Will Eaves. Murmur. Bellevue (2019).

“What is this ill spirit in you all of a sudden? I said I have been to the Darklands. It’s a place of bad enchantments. You stop being yourself. You won’t even know what that self is.”
“Self is what men tell themselves they are. I am just a cat.”
Marlon James. Black Leopard, Red Wolf. New York: Riverhead, 2019. Chapter 9.

“The experience of this kind of confusion — confusion around not just career, but identity itself — feels anything but frivolous. It is paralyzing.
* * *
It’s subtle, but we can translate What do you want to be when you grow up? to You are allowed one identity in this life, so which is it? How terrifying is that? When phrased that way, it’s no wonder the question stresses us out.”
Emilie Wapnick. How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up. New York: HarperCollins, 2017. pp. 5, 7.

“Sometimes, you have to step outside the person you believe yourself to be. And remember the person you were meant to be. The person you wanted to be.”
H. G. Wells, quoted in the Salem, Mass., News., quoted in the Week, June 13, 2014. p. 15.

"It is common today to locate one’s “true self” in one’s leisure choices. Accordingly, good work is taken to be work that maximizes one’s means for pursuing these other activities, where life becomes meaningful. The mortgage broker works hard all year, then he goes and climbs Mount Everest. The exaggerated psychic content of his summer vacation sustains him through the fall, winter, and spring. The Sherpas seem to understand their role in this drama as they discreetly facilitate his need for an unencumbered, solo confrontation with unyielding Reality. There is a disconnect between his work life and his leisure life; in the one he accumulates money and in the other he accumulates psychic nourishment. Each part depends on and enables the other, but does so in the manner of a transaction between sub-selves, rather than as the intelligibly linked parts of a coherent life."
Matthew B. Crawford. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. p. 181.

"People may call what happens at midlife 'a crisis,' but it’s not. It’s an unraveling — a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are."
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Center City, Minn.: Hazelden Publishing, 2010.

“If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves.”
Pablo Neruda. Quoted in Sharon Franquemont. You Already Know What to Do: 10 Invitations to the Intuitive Life. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2000. p. 108.

“We make art, in other words — and appreciate art — knowing that the art and artist will disappear. This is difficult to accept when your book first comes out, but it is why you keep writing (you tell yourself). We keep changing our sense of who we are. We hold it together knowing that we will also fall apart.”
“Holding It Together, Falling Apart: On Living Through Grief, Both Collective and Personal.” Matthew Salesses. LitHub. Sept. 8, 2020.

"It’s only when the structure of a society gets torn down that you find out what you are really made of. Primo Levi and Dostoyevsky understood this, because they saw it happen. When we lead lives of opulence and safety, we have only illusions of who we are."
Chris Hedges, speaking in “Moral Combat: Chris Hedges on. War, Faith, and Fundamentalism.” Bethany Saltman, interviewing Chris Hedges, The Sun, December 2008, p. 7.

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