This past weekend I had the honor and pleasure, pride, pomp and circumstance of watching my youngest daughter graduate from college. (Yes, as always the music, "pomp and circumstance" was played as I wept, forgetting to wear waterproof mascara; not pretty). As surreal a day as it was for her, she has no idea just how surreal it was for me.
I know that college graduates have their share of post education anxiety. (Can we name this as a disorder?? Copyrights please!!) However, there is a great deal of anxiety for this mother who is now in the stages of wondering what the hell to do now. You see, I have spent my entire adult life raising my children and now I feel that that part of my life is somewhat over. I know that raising children never really ends as we always are advising and guiding them. Yet, at the ages of 22 and 24, my daily work of mothering my girls is certainly at a new low.
The speed in which this came upon me is staggering. Just yesterday I was putting them on a school bus, saying good-bye as they rode off to kindergarten. There were carpools and activities. High school dances and sports. Then planning for college which we had been doing since their birth. Homework, coaching, championing. You name it.
When they each left for college the sadness was indescribable. I got used to it but I never liked it. I couldn't imagine that the time had gone so fast and there they were, leaving. Then BAM, it's over. They are both finished and home. My older daughter lives downtown, has a great job and her own wonderful life. While we still see each other weekly, she does not require the mothering that I used to give her. And now that number two is home for good and will soon be working full time, she too will no longer require nearly as much of me.
Believe me, an empty nest is a lot cleaner. There is less laundry and smaller grocery bills. There is much less chaos. But without the mothering responsibilities, it's time for me to take on a new life of sorts. And that is a strange concept to wrap my arms around. I was born to be a mother, dreamed of being a mother and reveled in every moment that the past 24 years has given me. So now what??
During the weekend as I watched the faces of the graduates and all the hope in their eyes I remembered a glimmer of hope that I'd had once. Once upon a time a cool 35 or so years ago I had many aspirations. Many goals that for one reason or another I have not achieved. Watching the eyes of all those young grads made me a bit sad to think that I am not 22; I am 54 and time is not slowing down any time soon. (A 22 year old boy did refer to me as a MILF this weekend so at least I have that going for me.)
The way I see it it is now time for my second life. I have achieved the one greatest goal I had: to raise wonderful, respectful children who received the education I did not; who have the opportunities in life that education will bring them. But most of all, they are good people. That is not an easy task; I am pretty damned proud of myself. (Of course, the husband had a small hand in it). So now, it's time for me to work on other goals.
I have learned much in these 54 years. Often the hard way but nonetheless I have learned. It's now time to take that knowledge and put it to work for whatever time I have left. (As a cancer survivor, I never take time for granted.) I am excited to embark on this new chapter of my life. I am going to use my knowledge to my advantage now that I have it. I know we all wish that we could be young and have the same knowledge we have gained as we age. So, since I can't turn back the clock, it's time to use it wisely.
One of my favorite scenes in a movie was from "The Natural". Glenn Close is visiting Robert Redford in the hospital. They had had a relationship many years before. Now as they have aged, she is wiser and believes that wisdom can offer better opportunities. She tells him "I believe we have two lives. The life we learn with and the life we live with after that." So here I go folks. It's time to head into the second half.
Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.