I wish there was a class in high school for parents of rising seniors. You know, a class that prepares you for the transition—one that tells you that while you’re preparing your last child for their next chapter in life, you should simultaneously do the same for yourself. It would cover topics like “recognizing the sheer mental paralysis and zombie-like shock that occurs” and “the consistent question of What do I do now?”
I thought I knew. I thought I had my empty-nest plan figured out. As a Navy veteran, I longed to travel again. Raising four children on my own after multiple divorces didn’t afford me the opportunity to do much traveling. My grand plan was to resign from my jobs and work as a flight attendant at any airline that would hire me. How spectacular would that be?! Then I’d travel the world and connect with local organizations to do outreach projects—filling my soul’s cup with my two favorite things.
This rising-empty-nester class would also advise you to take a moment to reflect and refresh. Reflect on the magnificent accomplishment of guiding a whole human from birth to 18 years on this planet relatively unscathed and well adjusted. This is so important as I later found out. When done improperly, you run the risk of experiencing spontaneous outbursts of sadness and sullenness instead of the nourishment and accolades your soul deserves for accomplishing this milestone.
This class would refresh your spirit by having you spend a few days finding out what else you like to do. It would help us to explore life apart from being the active parent and to learn how to let go and embrace the part of us that sat on the shelf during these years. Reintroducing that version of self into the world brings its own identity challenges and fears. We need assurance that the world has been waiting for us.
That reassurance didn’t come to me for three years. As I grappled with the unsuccessful attempt at starting my flight attendant career (Pressure Seal Leak Drills are a thorn in my side) and the back-to-back “thanks but no thanks” emails from airlines, I found myself staring at my future with a sense of sadness and peril. Have I seen my best days? I pondered. Am I still relevant in a society that rewards youth and a hustle mentality? I just wanted to travel and do good work in the world.
I spent many days and nights praying for clarity and fasting from anything that seemed like a distraction from receiving this clarity. What I didn’t realize was I was fighting, tooth and nail, against the season that God had put me in. I felt unsure and discouraged because I wasn’t allowing the refreshing and reflection to take its proper place and run its proper course. Up until the beginning of this year, I wasn’t sure of anything. I did, however, remain faithful, prayerful, and devoted to trusting God in the process.
Now, one year later, I am able to look back and see answered prayers.
As I sat on an airplane last month to take a day trip to Miami, it was not lost on me that I was sitting amid an answered prayer: To be an obedient steward of my resources and to have the ability to travel again. Enroute, I wrote a letter to myself. I reflected on my parenting journey, set an intentional focus for my future, and asked myself where I saw areas of potential growth and release. I reminded myself to take time and breathe in my uniqueness and the many aspects of myself that are beautiful and fearless—being a mother was just one of them. I became comfortable in my own skin and unapologetic in the pursuit of my joy.
God met me for our date on that beach in Miami to remind me that life has brand new meaning at every season. Maybe this is the class you needed, Sis. You are the best part of your journey. Enjoy and respect the process.Leave a Comment