The Road Not Taken

A story from Jill appeared in this blog on April 12, 2012. Here is more from her.

When two of my three children graduated from high school and went away to college, I found that my 13-year-old daughter and I were rattling around in a too-big house with too much property, so we moved from our home of 13 years. I was also slogging along in a career that, after 15 years, no longer satisfied me. It seemed as good a time as any to quit my job, although I had no other means of bringing in an income. Nevertheless, I decided that I was taking on a new life by selling my house and leaving my old career behind forever.

When I look back, I think I was delusional—or so burned out that I didn’t see the pitfalls of quitting a job with no real means of support. For five years, I did everything I could to avoid getting another job. As my savings diminished, my hopes and dreams receded. When I ultimately arrived at the point of complete desperation, a job offer appeared. The concept of steady income was a huge relief, but it also meant returning to my old career. For me, it felt like a giant step in the wrong direction. It meant the death of my dream of taking on something new, wonderful, and fulfilling. However, the fear of becoming a bag lady was stronger than the dream, so I took the job. In the five years since then, I have lived in my own sad story—complaining that I am almost 60 years old and have done nothing more with my life than sell medical supplies.

Recently, I organized a gathering of intelligent, powerful women to “create the lives that we love.” There were 11 of us in attendance, and when I looked around the room, I realized that two of the women are clients from my current career who have become good friends. Two others had been invited but were unable to attend. The realization hit me. If I hadn’t verged in the “wrong” direction, I would not have had these incredible women in my life. What a terrible loss that would have been! What had looked like my failure to move forward was, in fact, a gift that has allowed me to enrich my life in ways I could not imagine. As I approach my 60th birthday, I am reminded that my path is to bring people together to act as their inspiration so they can create the lives of their dreams, and I can do that no matter what job I have.

Travel Dreams

You’re a woman age 50+. A kind stranger has just handed you a voucher for free travel anywhere in the world—no strings attached. Your airfare/cruise ship is paid for, as is lodging in a five-star hotel at your destination. You can take along one other person: your spouse, partner, best friend, parent, child—the choice is yours. You can stay up to one month—magically, all of your responsibilities will be taken care of while you’re away.

Where do you go?

What means of transportation do you use?

Whom do you take?

How long do you stay?

Jill’s Story

 

When my kids were growing up, I watched other, older parents experience empty-nest syndrome. It seemed that instead of moving on with their new lives, they were stuck trying to figure out how to fill the gap left by their kids’ flight from home. So I judged them to be poor planners. My internal conversation went something like this, “You’ve had at least 18 years to plan for your kids’ departure, so what’s the problem?”

Determined to avoid that trap, I made a list of all the things that would keep me busy once my children had grown. At times when my life had space only for juggling kids and work, I would remind myself to enjoy the time I did have with my family, knowing that when they had moved on I could turn to those interests that I had put on hold.

Eventually, all three of my children were gone, and I was left with an empty nest. I focused my time and attention on the list I had made for just this occasion…and it didn’t work. What I mean is that I embarked on some wonderful activities. I filled the kid gap with volunteering at the local hospital, intensifying my karate training schedule, buying a house, and spending more time with friends, but even so, I had a huge hole in my soul. In short, I got really depressed.

That is when I learned that the empty-nest syndrome has nothing to do with feeling empty of things to do after the children have moved on. It has everything to do with re-evaluating one’s place in the world. For 25 years, my identity was attached to being a mom and a breadwinner. Since I had put most other things on hold during that time, when the roles of mom and breadwinner were no longer required, I was left with an overwhelming sense of loss–not of the kids, but of myself.

The past two years have been about re-discovering myself, and I have enlisted many people to join me on my journey. They have moved me forward when I dug in my heels, encouraged me when I wanted to give up, and have ultimately helped me renew my sense of purpose in the world. From having daily conversations with a good friend…to attending weekly classes about transforming my life…to creating the life that I love with a group of fabulous, powerful women…I am in the next phase of a beautifully rich life. And included in that, I have the privilege of being with my grown children, whose own lives have unfolded in extraordinary ways.

At this point, I am profoundly grateful for the empty nest that has offered me a gift of renewal and excitement for things to come.

Kim’s Story

My husband and I are empty-nesters and without grandchildren. We sold all of our furniture and purchased a loft half the size of our house to experience an urban lifestyle in midtown Sacramento. We are so excited! Walking distance from our favorite galleries, restaurants, and shopping.

I am also following through with something I have always wanted to do: building a non-profit foundation that provides financial support to other humanitarian efforts.

Favorite Street Game

We’ve done candy and soda-fountain treats, so let’s move away from the table now and head outside for some exercise.

When I was a kid, my friends and I always played in the street. I grew up in suburbia, but let’s face it: what made games street-possible was the fact that it was the 1950s. We didn’t worry about traffic or kidnappers or drive-bys…we just dashed out the front door and made the asphalt our playground.

I was a bit of a tomboy (okay, I was a card-carrying, certifiable, get-that-doll-away-from-me tomboy), so the games I liked best were the ones I could play with the boys: hit the bat, spud, freeze tag, hide and seek (which we called hide and GO seek…perhaps that’s an east-coast thing, like tuna FISH) and anything involving a ball.

What about you? When you ventured into the street, what was your favorite game to play?