As a parent whose daughter is about to go off to college, it’s suddenly hitting me.
I’ve known this day was coming for a long time. 17 years in fact. My baby is now in her final year of high school. I’ve just taken her on a Campus Tour at a University she’s interested in attending. How did we get here so soon?
Knowing this fact is one thing. Realizing it is another.
As a parent this is a hard reality but this is what we sign up for. From the beginning, we must learn to let go. While, as a parent, we hold on for dear life, our children fight to be free. From the first day of school to the first overnighter with friends, we run through the range of emotions that comes with losing time with our kids.
We’ve been through a lot together, she and I.
I raised her as a single parent for the first years of her life. We moved into a house of our own, just the two of us. I remarried during her elementary years, introducing her to a new man in our lives. Later, during high school, we moved from Texas to Australia.
We travel together. We run errands together. We bake. We’ve always been together.
It’s hard now, while she’s still under my roof, under my protection, under my control. I’ve realized that I have begun to steal moments of time under the guise of delivering ‘life lessons’. I teach her to cook her favourite meal. I take her driving in a car park 45 minutes away when our neighbourhood is far more quiet. I absorb her small rebellions with a resigned sigh as she exerts her independence.
I have always encouraged her to follow her passions. Like me, she is keenly interested in writing and photography. She has some wonderful story ideas already. She has a great eye for photography. She’s smart. She’s inquisitive. I know she’ll be okay on her own.
She is growing into a strong, independent, happy young woman. This doesn’t make it any easier.
So, when the reality hits of that impending time, we wonder: What’s next?
I have a plan. It started four years ago when I quit my 70-hour a week, mentally draining, soul-sucking corporate job. I wasn’t sleeping. I suffered chronic migraines. I was miserable.
I knew then that if I didn’t quit the crazy life I was leading, I wouldn’t live to see my daughter graduate high school, let alone graduate university!
I decided to lead my life by example and follow my passions. I started a business selling my photography travelling to Art Festivals around the state. I built a website so I could write and share my story. I created real time that I could spend with my daughter.
Now she’s heading off on her own, I have declared my own plan: I would travel when she graduates from high school.
By having an ‘empty nest plan’, I too would live out my own new chapter as she embarked on hers.
I can imagine when that time comes. I’ll be a blubbering mess, just as my mother was, when I’m thrown that last wave goodbye.
Then, I’ll hop on a plane and soon be writing about taking the Ghan across the Australian Outback; Snorkelling in the Maldives; Taking photographs of elephants in Africa; or writing a book in Tuscany.
I’ll be distracted from the reality that my baby girl has left my nest. I won’t be dying of depression. I won’t be dying after a life I was only existing in. I won’t be dying from a heart attack due to the stress of a crazy-corporate life. I will be living. Just as she will be.
I’ll be making the most of my life. Making it matter.
And during the holidays, I’ll meet my daughter for a long, meandering lunch while we sit in a café in Rome.