Many years ago, while working overseas, I attended a conference for ex-pat women dealing with change. Various speakers and panels shared their stories, tips and resources. I remember one line from all the many talks we listened to that weekend. “I just completed my 33rd international move, and I have bad news for those of you just starting a life like this. It gets harder and harder each time I do it”. Not very encouraging, but it’s the only line I remember, so it stuck.
I was thinking about that woman as we drove away from dropping off my youngest at college. It’s my fifth time, so we didn’t do anything particularly special to mark the occasion. We’ve done this before. We know about coming home to a quieter and emptier house than before. It’s ok. In fact, in years past , I had been thankful for a brief respite, before the next parent weekend or quick overnight zip-in-and-out visit. I had projects stacking up and a keen desire to restore order. They would all be back soon enough. The quiet was temporary and very welcome.
This year however, it felt uncomfortably empty. It felt unnaturally quiet. Always very striking after the typical pre-dop-off weekend flurry of disorganization and last-minute-ness of everything. However, it seemed more permanently quiet this time. Not as welcoming as before.
It was different. Only one returning to college. The other just launched and off working this month. It’s all good. It’s all according to plan. But gulp, the reality of that plan also means the threads that bind us are changing. They are ever loosening as we gradually launch our charges into the world.
The ties are not as tight and immediate. This is as it should be. They don’t pull on you night and day. This is by design. The connections morph into something that is chosen, rather than life-sustaining. This is what we dreamt of. They can manage without us. This was what we’ve been working towards!
We are all transitioning to a new level of independence. I was caught off guard. We’re shifting gears. I don’t believe change has to “get harder”, like the woman bemoaning the 33rd move, I just need to be more intentional in how I approach it. This is a “thing”. It merits some forethought and attention. Next year I’ll be better prepared for the final drop-off!