In fact, the transitions that punctuate many people’s careers after the age of forty or forty-five are the unmarked ruins of this natural time of transition. Whether such transitions take the form of a time when everything “goes dead,” a time when things keep going wrong, a time when long-successful strategies suddenly stop working, or a time when the gray fog of depression covers whatever was once bright and interesting, this natural (if often delayed) time of transition starts with an ending, a sense of loss.
And after we have acknowledged the ending, the sense of loss is replaced with emptiness, meaninglessness, a feeling that all our accomplishments actually mean very little. We say (if we have the courage to talk about the experience) that our careers aren’t going anywhere; we may wonder whether we’ve been in the wrong career all along; we may consider an early retirement, although we probably at the time lack the funds to pull it off. Those questions come from getting caught up in the content of our situation and from overlooking the underlying pattern. The feelings that we encounter at such a time are best understood as signs of a life passage that has been stripped of its rites and tossed aside as no longer useful. We are so distant from this sense that life has natural chapters, along with introductions marking transition, that we hardly know what we are missing. But life remembers . . . and tries to remind us.
– Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes