In the last year, we’ve seen our youngest daughter Annie successfully launched. She graduated from college, moved to San Francisco, got a job; she’s all grown up. We sold our house. Wally and his business partner began year one of their exit plan, working fewer hours. In March, our oldest daughter Barrie decided to flee the rainy northwest and moved to San Diego. In six weeks, she quit her job up here, put everything in her Jetta, drove to San Diego, moved into a condo with a former sorority sister, and got a new job; she loves it.
While we are immensely proud of our children and feel a great sense of accomplishment that we raised such competent humans, our nest is really empty these days.
The first emotion I felt at these milestones was grief. Our life as we knew it was over. Even the dog is gone. For the last 26 years, it has been all about building and raising a family. We have lots of interests, but what defines your life, what gives it purpose, is raising decent humans. Then you have to let go of them and see them fly away. And when they do, it’s a bittersweet thing.
So how do we fill the space? Wally’s taken up painting again, and I couldn’t be happier about that. It’s very interesting to see him move back to something that gives him so much in return. He’s cooking up a storm. I’m working out, trying to lose the weight that keeps my cholesterol levels high, and am making progress and feeling stronger. And I’m weaving and reading a lot. It’s important to have creative outlets that let you accomplish something fresh and new. The silver lining to all this is that we have the house project to focus on.
Of course, the point of this blog is that life is a journey. For most of us, getting a college education was quickly followed by starting a career, then finding a mate and settling down to start the next big chapter. That’s the journey we were programmed by society and our families to follow. And we probably made most of those decisions with a child’s mind - emotionally.
As I approached this phase of life, I came to believe that when you reach middle age you are probably just a bit more than halfway through your lifetime. Good nutrition and health care are extending our lives, and so we can go another round. We almost have an obligation to be more intentional this time - life after child-raising does not have to be any less active, interesting and meaningful. In fact, there is growing evidence that staying active and engaged extends your healthy life.
Really, you get to write your own script for the rest of your life. And even better, you get to write it in a way you couldn’t have the first time around. This time you write with self-knowledge and the gift of experience. And that is a great thing, is it not?
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