When I envisioned what life would be like as an empty-nester, I imagined long walks on the beach, hand in hand. (I know … I live in Nebraska and we don’t have beaches, but you get the picture.) Lazy afternoons at the coffee shop playing games and passing little knowing nods and smiles. Laughing, enjoying my husband’s company and not worrying about a thing … except how we were going to pay for three kids in college at the same time.
What I did not envision is me at my computer at 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, greasy hair from not showering for two days. Ice packs on my back from a hard Saturday morning PiYO class (that’s Pilates and yoga, combined – as if one alone wasn’t hard enough!). Still wearing my pajamas and stained bathrobe. Yelling at my husband that he passive-aggressively, on purpose didn’t buy onions for a recipe he was trying to throw together for a Super Bowl party with a soup competition.
Why did I do this to myself? What was I thinking when I signed up for classes? Why did I think that at 49, I could possibly go back to school? The last time I was in school, the internet hadn’t even been invented yet. I had to ask my college students how to use the internet to write a paper! (Let me tell you, it is sooo much easier than typing it one painstaking page at a time on a typewriter, but it is still hard.) I keep telling myself, “If it were easy, everyone would be in school.” And, they aren’t; so that proves that it isn’t, right?
I go through these mini panic attacks every time I have more than a two-page paper to write. And yet, I still trudge on. I’m now halfway through; that’s a total of 15 credit hours. This may not seem like much, but it was a heck of a lotta blood, sweat, and literal tears … lots of tears.
Why, when we were at the cusp of what could have been some amazingly relaxed years that only parents dream about, did I decide to go back?
Maybe it’s because keeping my mind occupied means I don’t constantly wonder what my daughters are doing, who they are talking to, or what new friends and adventures they are partaking in this week, without me knowing. Maybe it’s because, after 15 years of working at a University, I decided to jump on the education bandwagon and just get that Masters I’ve been dreaming about for years. Maybe it’s because I need a piece of paper as validation that I’m good enough and smart enough (and people like me). Maybe it’s because I’m bat-shit crazy and just can’t take having breathing room – or what other people like to call “relaxation” – in my life. I don’t know. But I did it. I am doing it. I went for it! I am focusing on the dream of furthering my education and it is exciting, engaging, thrilling, horrifying, and terrifying, all at once. Some days I feel so proud of myself I could burst; other days I burst out crying from being overwhelmed with just trying to type a simple paragraph.
Why am I telling you all of this? How does this even matter?
Because the reason I was yelling at my husband had nothing to do with onions. Okay, I may have been just a little upset, but the real reason I was yelling at my husband is because I felt overwhelmed, depleted, and stressed out: I had been working on homework for two days solid, I was sore from Saturday morning PiYo, I had papers to grade for a class I was teaching on the side of my 40+ hour job, my butt was starting to mold to the chair to where eventually I would have to get a crowbar to pry it off, I was tired of looking at hundreds of tiny little seeds on the floor that fell off my houseplant and that would be there until they sprouted in the spring, I had bills to pay (which is always so much fun), we had to get ready for a Super Bowl party, AND MY HUSBAND DIDN’T BUY THE DAMN ONIONS!!!
I was a stressed-out mess.
This was not how I envisioned empty-nesting at all.
Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.” Heck, it’s a miracle I get out of bed some days. It’s a miracle my husband and I are still married. I believe in miracles. I believe that with hard work, a forgiving and loving husband, and possibly a sprinkle of self-confidence, a cup of panic, and two buckets more of tears – someday I will complete my Masters. I can’t wait. No, seriously, I don’t know if I can wait! It will be thrilling, exciting, and I will know I did it on my own, with the help of a few hundred close friends, colleagues, and family members.
If I can do it, you can, too. Going back to college may not be what trips your trigger or gets you excited to be alive, but I’m challenging you to find something that does. Take that leap of faith, believe in miracles, and do it. I am so looking forward to the day I get to don a cap and gown and celebrate this amazing accomplishment because after that, I’m taking one afternoon to sit in the coffee shop with my husband, take a long walk on the beach, … or at least, take a nap.