Hax Philes: Can you have a pre-midlife crisis?

This question is from the Aug. 15 chat:

I’m having something of a pre-mid-life crisis. I’m 30 years old with a great job (at a company people say “wow” about), good friends, single but not bothered about it, and hobby that I really enjoy. I do often wonder whether job is leading me anywhere I want to go, longterm career-wise, and I don’t feel incredibly passionate about it, but I really like my coworkers and I enjoy going in most days. But lately I find I’ve been craving adventure – fighting an urge to simply pack it all in and travel the world to rediscover myself and what I feel passionately about.

I know this is partly a normal response to settling into a stable, routine lifestyle. But I also think it must be telling me something real about my current situation (right?). How do I assess this and figure out what I want? How do I tell the difference between having an escapist instinct because it seems easier than dealing with reality and having it because it’s truly time to shake things up in a big way?

Anyone been there?

Here’s one response from someone who has:

I honestly did a double take, thinking that I somehow was you. Same, same and same (though I didn’t love working for Wow Co, I could handle it well enough, and enjoyed my coworkers). Go have an adventure. Don’t stress too much about metrics and PTO etc, pick a place and just go. For me, I (almost) totally winged it. A ticket to Central America, a backpack and a reservation for the first night in a hostel and figured that I’d figure out the rest along the way.YMMV, of course (most people thought I was nuts and would come home dead so maybe you’d want to plan it out a bit more) but it was something about this free-wheeling, no-plans (had a bailout plan just in case), following the wind thing just cleared a bunch of other stuff up. I realized that, yes, Wow Co was a terrible fit personally (but afforded the ability to go on such a trip)–so gained that perspective, and then eventually over time realized to jump for it, apply for the job I *really* wanted (a dream I’d let fall by the wayside) and guess what? I’m on my lunchbreak from it right now.

What else would you recommend? Have you successfully navigated similar waters?

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Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers.
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