The Inevitable Change in the Creative
"The first half of life, which I reckon lasts for the first 35 or 36 years, is the time when the individual usually expands into the world.
It is just like an exploding celestial body, and the fragments travel out into space, covering ever greater distances.
So our mental horizon widens out, and our wishes and expectation, our ambition, our will to conquer the world and live, go on expanding, until you come to the middle of life.
A man who after forty years has not reached that position in life which he had dreamed of is easily the prey of disappointment.
Hence the extraordinary frequency of depressions after the fortieth year.
It is the decisive moment; and when you study the productivity of great artists—for instance, Nietzsche—you find that at the beginning of the second half of life their modes of creativeness often change.
For instance, Nietzsche began to write Zarathustra, which is his outstanding work, quite different from everything he did before and after, when he was between 37 and 38.
That is the critical time. In the second part of life you begin to question yourself.
Or rather, you don't; you avoid such questions, but something in yourself asks them, and you do not like to hear that voice asking "What is the goal?"
And next, "Where are you going now?"
When you are young you think, when you get to a certain position, "This is the thing I want."
The goal seems to be quite visible.
People think, "I am going to marry, and then I shall get into such and such a position, and then I shall make a lot of money, and then I don't know what."
Or suppose they have reached it; then comes another question: "And now what?"
Are we really interested in going on like this forever, for ever doing the same thing, or are we looking for a goal as splendid or as fascinating as we had before?"
Then the answer is: "Well, there is nothing ahead, Death is ahead."
That is disagreeable, you see; that is most disagreeable.
So it looks as if the second part of life has no goal whatever.
Now you know the answer to that.
From time immemorial man has had the answer: "Well, death is a goal; we are looking forward, we are working forward to a definite end."
You see, this characterizes the difference: when you are young, you live expansively, you conquer the world; and when you grow old, you begin to reflect. You naturally begin to think of what you have done.
There a moment comes, between 36 and 40—certain people take a bit longer—when perhaps, on an uninteresting Sunday morning, you suddenly think, "Now what have I lived last year?" or something like that; and then it begins to dawn, and usually you catch your breath and don't go on thinking because it is disagreeable. Because all you see in front of you is your own death.
When you reach the second part of life you realize you have no more time."
Carl Jung, C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, Pages 106-108.