Last year I celebrated a milestone birthday, one that is frequently met with black balloons and obnoxious cards (thankfully my family spared me that). It was my second year as an almost-empty nester and I was still adjusting to the quiet. How does it feel on the other side? The same, but very different. I have more years behind me, which has given me more confidence and loosened my filter (we are still determining whether that is a good thing or bad). I am re-evaluating what really matters and leaving behind the things that don’t. I am determined to enjoy life, even if others disagree with my choices (like dancing wearing a sloth head).
My fiftieth birthday came at the end of a summer of political tension and before a presidential election that promised nothing. I learned something I should have known — nothing is impossible. Like many others, I was shocked at the results of the election and impacted by the discord in our country. Since I no longer have small children, I have the luxury of living outside my personal bubble and made a conscious effort to keep up with current events and (for the first time in decades) really pay attention to politics. Having studied the legal system in college (I once considered law school), I have a pretty good base of knowledge on how things are supposed to work and was distressed at how things have been going and more so at how many people have minimal knowledge in this area.
I heard rumblings about a protest in January, but ignored it, until events made it impossible for me to stay uninvolved. It was a game-day decision, but I did participate in the Women’s March and have since used my voice to speak out when it was necessary.
Politics aside, the year was surprisingly full. I have often been asked what I will do when my children are grown, the implication being that I will have so much time I’ll get bored. This is far from the truth. Though my kids are grown, in some ways, my life seems busier. I don’t have the day-to-day activities, but many weekends have been filled with college events or simply shuttling back and forth for breaks (one of my children goes to school five hours away). Of course it doesn’t make sense to simply drive there and back, so I have made a point of discovering things to see and do to make it more interesting.
The year was also filled with special events such as weddings and birthdays that necessitated travel and provided us the opportunity to spend more time with extended family (and have mini vacations). Having a flexible schedule also allowed me to tag along on a business trip with my husband where I got to spend a day exploring the National Archives. All this travel has resulted in me catching a serious bug — the travel bug. I have always liked to travel, but I am now finding that a month at home is too long. I am itching to be on the move.
One benefit of the nest emptying is the ability to pick up and go with little notice, which is exactly what we did last spring, taking a weekend at Cape May, and another over the summer when we flew to Florida to surprise my mom for her milestone birthday. We have talked about planning more trips like this in the future.
I expect that the next couple years will have more of the same, then we may be looking at a truly empty nest. If the warp speed of the past couple years is any indication, that time will be here before we know it.
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