Third Arc:Mid-Late Adulthood, Newly Defined
Third Arc (with the previous two also defined) is a term I devised (from personal observation, not scientific research) for the third of several life stages . I borrowed the term arc to represent a person’s life stages from literature, as opposed to the oft-used act, which almost always assumes that the 3rd is the final one, wherein all is resolved and ultimately, the curtain falls.
First Arc I describe broadly as Becoming. It’s when we’re forming up physically, mentally, emotionally, culturally, philosophically, ethically, religiously, personality-wise, chemically, etc. It’s when the norm of life is to be guided, taught, inculcated, led, and educated. It probably comprises a span from gestation through our contiguous schooling.
Second Arc is a time of Practice. This is when we try on and hone selves – the ones that fit expectations, the ones that react against expectations, the ones that we thought we wanted, and the ones about which we changed our minds. We practice by making choices regarding work-paths, love relationships, family relationships, and behaviors. We also practice through the creative, intellectual, spiritual, communal, athletic, social, entertainment, and stress-release outlets and activities we pursue, avoid, and reject. We may hop mindlessly from thing to thing, repeat a thing continuously, or practice/reflect/revise/practice a thing differently. My guess is that virtually all people apply a combination of all these modes to various aspects of life practice, and that this arc runs from some point in our 20s to some point in our 50s, with plenty of room for variance.
In the Third Arc comes Realization. Realization here means both mental “Aha!” moments and reaching – realizing – potentials. This is a time of settling into who we are when we’re not trying to impress, appease or gain approval from others. Of shedding many “shoulds,” looking back with increasingly unguarded honesty, and looking ahead with some level of determination to do “our own thing” and find our own rewards. During this period, we may more readily appreciate our gifts and strengths and accept with equanimity our flaws and vulnerabilities. It’s a time of keeping our own company, for pleasure and/or pain. For many, it’s a time of being an influential adult to children – grandchildren, nieces and nephews, etc. – and to young adults. For some, it’s a time of greater solitude than ever, for others, a time of increased connectedness. Sexuality may be waning or reigniting during this arc, or both – probably, though, it’s changing. Spanning our 50s, 60s and sometimes 70s, this is by no means the end of the story; it’s a new arc, not the last one.
I presume that if a person lives long enough, there will be a fourth, and maybe even a fifth, arc. I’m focusing on the Third Arc, not ending with it.
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