I made it to the parking lot.
Then I made it to our car.
The minute my hand touched the door handle, I collapsed into tears.
Dropping our oldest off to college for the first time knocked the wind out of me and I cried the entire way home.
All I ever wanted when I was younger was to be someone’s wife, and somebody’s mother. I never dreamed of any other life really. Oh sure, maybe the occasional wish to be an actress or run away and be a circus clown but mostly I just wanted to be married. I thought being married would complete me in a way nothing else could. I was totally wrong in that assessment by the way, but that’s a story for later.
That kind of vibe sorta sticks and makes dating difficult to say the least. I have been looking for my MRS Degree since I could walk and talk. Guys know it and steer clear for the most part. Somehow or other though I met this really cute guy who picked up on the vibe and didn’t care. Seems he wanted the same things. Well, he didn’t want to be a wife, but he didn’t exactly mind having one – even one who lacked certain domestic skills like ironing and cooking.
My identity was always wrapped up in who I was dating. Codependancy and I are old roommies. You think Bella was nauseating? I was worse, trust me. When my high school sweetheart joined the navy I dreamed of being an officer’s wife and when that didn’t work out, it was the science teacher’s wife, the movie star’s wife, the … well you get the picture.
Being Deana, just wasn’t in my solar system of a brain. Every time I dated a new guy, I altered my personality to fit his. Manipulative? Yep. I tried on personalities and life styles like women try on clothes in a department store.
If I want to shift blame, I could easily place it on how I was raised. “act right or move out” was the motto in my home growing up. I lived in constant fear that I would wake up one day and my bags would be packed and I would be on my own. Truthfully though, where my chameleon came from is irrelevant. I own my adult choices today – even if it took 25 years to face them.
That’s what this blog is about you know. Owning choices. Life after kids. I’ve gotten away from that lately, and I’m sorry. I’ve been busy.
I am the quintessential mom. PTA president, Youth Group Leader, Home Room Mom, Office Volunteer, Substitute teacher, soccer coach. I did it all, gladly by the way. I thought I was going to die when they grew up. I didn’t.
My children are grown now. I joke about that regularly. My opening introduction is “My children are grown and my gardens are dead. Boy, are they happy I got it in that order.”
It’s been four years since my oldest left for college and one year since my youngest did the same.
In that time I have discovered:
- I love horses and even rode through the jungle’s of Belize on horseback.
- I’m funny and started doing stand up.
- I competed in a Clean Comedy Challenge in Indiana against pros who’ve been doing this for 10-20 years and while I didn’t win or place, I had a blast!
- I took my very first vacation ever – one that did not include visiting family.
- I also took my first vacation (gasp) without my husband.
- I left the Lutheran church and found a tradition that is more supportive of outreach and ministry.
- I started playing the banjo.
- I started serving dinner in a homeless shelter
- I sponsored my first child through Cups of Cold Water Ministries in the Dominican Republic
- I swam with sharks in Cancun
- I snorkeled a barrier reef.
- I love blue grass. Who knew?
- I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers (both sides of my family) — Instead of living in the suburbs, I want to own a ranch. My husband does not share that dream and so we compromise – I ride at a friends ranch instead. compromise is good.
- I’m going to learn how to rope, chase cans, and pen cattle for fun. All on horseback.
- I’m leaving for my second ever vacation next month and this time, I’m going to ride along the ocean and IN the ocean bareback on a horse. (How freaking cool is that?)
- I’ve taken command of my health and I’m learning about genetically modified foods and how they impact my body.
- I’ve become and advocate against Monsanto.
- I came out as a democrat.
- And I went back in the closet over that because I couldn’t handle the rejection and pushback. (I’m working on that)
- I’m learning how to voice my opinions with respect and ask for the same in return.
- I let go of old friendships that require me to stay a chameleon and feed my fears of abandonment.
- I’m making new friends.
- I started writing poetry.
- I wrote my first novel (unpublished, but written at least)
- And I’m getting ready to write my first non-fiction book.
I am free.
Life doesn’t end when our kids move out. It simply opens a new chapter and a new opportunity to meet the woman in the mirror. Have you met her lately? Have you listened to her? Are you free?
For some of you, this is your first year on your own. Your child has left for college and you are wondering what’s next. I’m here to tell you there is a lot of awesomeness next. Find one thing you want to learn this year and try it. You may like it, you may not. But either way — enjoy the ride.