It has been a week since my nest emptied again. This time I didn’t cry as I drove away from my younger son’s dorm as I left him for his senior year of college. I will miss Andrew a lot, but I am hopeful for him that this year will be something special and I know that he is completely familiar with William and Mary, the city of Williamsburg, that he is surrounded by wonderful friends and that he is completely in his element as a college student. If anything, I am a bit jealous that I don’t get to share that sense that anything can happen and that the future is limitless. I can recall the amazing feeling of freedom and empowerment as I sat perched on the edge of my adult life when I was a senior at the same university. I thought I could do anything, be anything that I chose.
As I have meditated this week, I keep coming back to the thought that I wish my life was as open and unwritten as my son’s. I started my 30th year as an educator a couple of weeks ago. I qualify to start drawing my pension in a year and a half, but I will be way to young to start social security. My husband, Nick, is closer to retirement than I am, but we both intend to keep on working for a while because we enjoy our jobs. There are many choices I have made that limit my options. I will never be rich because of the career I chose, but I am okay with that. I doubt I will ever be famous or discover the cure for a major disease or invent the next device that everyone feels they must own. I chose to buy a house that I still need to pay off and I am rooted in the community where I have lived for over 25 years. Chances are slim that I will suddenly chuck it all and go to live in Tibet or sell everything and travel the world with a backpack and a Eurail pass.
But, like Andrew, I do feel poised on the edge of something new. There is a freedom in being an empty nester that means I can pursue my interests and follow my dreams. I have loved every second of being a parent. However, my spare time was tied up in my kids’ activities, driving them places, getting the supplies for various activities, and cooking meals for them. For years, much of my income has gone to save for college or to take care of my sons’ immediate needs. That is just what responsible parent’s do and I don’t regret a second of that time or energy.
Now, I am starting to hear that quiet voice nudging me to try new things. I know I desperately want to travel and see the world. I know I want to keep writing, doing yoga and hiking. There are friends I would like to get to know better. Nick is finally able to walk without pain and we hope to have many adventures together as he continues to heal. So, for now, my empty nest is where I hope to do a lot more meditating, dreaming and preparations for my bright future. Who knows? Perhaps I will get to study yoga in India one day or hike in the Alps or along the Great Wall of China? Perhaps my job and my income will now be tools to get me to the places I have read about in books? For now, I will keep on practicing yoga, walking and meditating as I try to get clear about what is next.