There has been so many changes in my life in the last year. I think about where I was a year ago and it's seems so far away. In some ways, I feel like I've found my bearings a little better. In another, I feel completely off center. I'm navigating my way through a world where my role has changed. My kid left about two weeks ago. She packed up her bags and ran off to Montana for adventure. It was such an 18 year old thing to do. I was not a fan of this but I understand it. I understand that need to get out, to experience, to try. I made the choice to not do that when I was young I guess in a way there is a part of me that is jealous of her, of her bravery, of her let's just do this attitude. That used to be a long time ago but somewhere along this life I decided to slip back into the shadows, to hide. When you have kids, it's so easy to forget you're a person, too. It's so easy to put everyone in front of you. Somehow keeping a clean house becomes your top priority. Somewhere between packing lunches and reading bed time stories and picking up toys left behind from the day consumes any energy you have for yourself. So, I became someone's mother and that was that.
A year ago, I had a kid who was about to start her senior year. I was working as a bartender, not really struggling for money at least not the way we are now. I was trying to figure out my life, the next best step, realizing my kid was about to find her wings and fly away. This idea that I would no longer have a kid under my roof was becoming more than something that would happen years from now. It was about to be now. So what then for me? So, I quit my job as a bartender and I got a job that I thought was going project me into the greatest of heights. One year later and I cry more often than I have in a long time. One year later and my nest is empty. One year later I am a 40 year old woman while sure of everything she is not, is having a real hard time figuring out who I am. Life happens in the strangest of ways sometimes. While I feel like my ground is a little bit rocky right now, I know that every step has had it's purpose. I was not supposed to stay behind that bar and I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to be sitting behind a desk either. I am meant to be her mother but I was also meant to let whoever is sitting here stand up, too.
I feel like most of my life I've been hiding so much of myself. This idea is one of the blogs that didn't get written earlier this week. This idea that I have had to hide both my dark, depressive side and the hope that has been this light that keeps me going. I feel like people have always tried to put me in this place, fit me into the corner that they want me to sit. I've always preferred my own so that's where I've been, hiding and being whatever fit the situation because it was easier. There is a sadness that I carry around, that I have always carried around. It didn't form because the assault that happened when I was 18. That just amplified the darkness that was already there. Sometimes sadness doesn't come from an event that happened. Sometimes you just have it. I learned, however, that this sad, lonely side of me wasn't one that people wanted to be around but showing my hopeful, euphoric side almost felt too fake. Why? Because people couldn't deal with the fact that I was both. For most of my life, I've hid what I felt, never said a word about it. I sighed heavily and walked away. It just was too much work to try to explain both. As my life has gone by, I've realized that not many people want to take the time to listen anyway.
One year ago, I felt like I was a bit more stable but I was unhappy. One year later, my foundation has been rocked but I feel like I am so close to figuring out how to balance myself. My child has found her wings and is currently in flight, leaving me here on the ground to watch her soar. It is a fact of life. Children leave their parents behind but I don't have to be left behind. I can fly, too. I don't have to put her in front of me anymore because she doesn't need me to. I don't have to sacrifice my time, my energy. I need me now and, for the first time in my life, I don't feel guilty writing those words. I'm done hiding, done placating to everyone around me. One year ago, I gave so much of myself to so many things that, looking back now, didn't really value me at all. That's on me. I should have drawn that line. I should have made it very clear that I was worth more or even as much as you. I'm at this job now where they ask a lot and I get it. It is the nature of the job, of any job really. Last week I came home and cried every night. I looked in the mirror with my red eyes and had an epiphany. I was done. I wiped my tears, gave myself a hug, told myself that allowing myself to feel this was OK. This was healthy to allow myself to feel, to digest, to let it out. I am done hiding. One year ago, I still felt like I had to. I guess I'm doing better than I thought, right? I will always be lonely and sad but it makes the hope, the love in me shine that much brighter. We are all light and we are all dark. Without the other, we just exist and life has to be about more than merely existing.
I didn't realize how many changes were going to happen this year. I don't know if this is usually what happens when you start your forties but it's been a hell of a start to a decade. This blog is going to be kind of all over the place. There's been a lot that's going on. In so many ways, I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I've gotten better with change over the years. There was a time in my life where it would have made me shut down completely. I don't know. The older I've gotten, the more I've wanted it. I've wanted to grow and evolve and make things better. My anxiety doesn't get triggered by my routine altering. It is more of not having a plan (or several) if things go wrong. I look back at the last few years and I just don't know where I went. I got wrapped up in these things about me that don't matter. I worked a job for a long time that I allowed the people around me to determine who I was. I went to another thinking that I would find some sort of direction. As much as I do not like my current position, it has made it very clear my direction. I don't want who I am to be determined by anyone else other than me. I don't want my worth to be measured by how many birthday wishes I do or don't get. My phone can stay silent and you know I'm OK with it. I'm in my forties now and there's a whole lot of life out there for me to live.
This week my daughter decided to move to Montana on a whim. I will tread lightly here because I've got a lot of mixed feelings about this. I've raised a hell of a kid, strong willed and sporadic and intelligent. She can do anything she wants when she puts her mind to it. To be very honest, not a huge fan of this current plan she has. I told her as much but here's the thing. I look at my parents. They were so very Catholic, so very Republican, so very clear on what they expected out of us. They gave us this amazing foundation to stand on as adults because they put those bricks, those sturdy bricks under our feet. When we fell, we got back up every time and that's attributed to a lot to them. So, I look at this kid of mine. The last few years have been rough, tiresome, frustrating for all parties involved. There were times I just didn't know who she was. I tried so hard to give her some sort of boundaries but every thing I tried just pushed us each other away more. And then she turned 18. I remember my parents at 18 and I remember my mother looking at me and telling me I was on my own. I was an adult and I was on my own. She never did my laundry again. I was never given a curfew or rules or punishments even when I was being obnoxious. They let me go to succeed, to fail, to merely exist on my own terms. I think maybe I resented them for a minute but not for long. Once I accepted this life was on my terms, I was OK. I figured it out. She's 18 now and I cannot tell her what to do. I won't tell her what to do. I won't agree with her decisions. I will always want her to maybe think about things a little bit more but I can't stop her. I laid those bricks down. At this point all I can do is hope they won't crack.
So, now I'm 40 and my kid has moved out. It's just me and my husband and my cats in an apartment that is too big for us. I get to experience this brand new era of my life where my responsibilities are fewer. I can sit and write a blog with all the time in the world. I can go have a drink on Thursday night if I want or go to bed at 6 pm if I like. I can focus my time on myself, on my writing and my art, on my husband, on our relationship as a married couple without a child to worry about in the mix. True, my daughter has been doing her own thing more and more since she's gotten older but not having to check to see if she'll be home at night or if she's eating dinner with us has been nice. I love my kid but it's been nice not walking on egg shells in my own house. This is going to sound corny and I hate to even do it but I feel like I'm starting my second life. This is the chance to do all the things I did not do before. And you know what the great thing about it is? I'm not a dumb 20 year old kid who doesn't know what the fuck she's doing when I'm doing those things. I understand more every day who I am and what demons I need to exercise. Honestly, over the last few years for as tough as they have been have taught me exactly who I am. Maybe it's been watching this kid struggle to find her feet that helped me find mine because every time I looked at her, I saw a little bit of me. The more she fought me, the more I finally understood these flaws I carried. The nice thing was realizing I could put them down. I didn't need to carry them because none of them matter. I'm a 40 year old woman and I don't have to be scared of me anymore.
I wrote my last blog out of hurt. I turned 40 and so many people didn't remember. I went back and read it. I went back to that girl who I keep in my little corner and we talked for awhile. I've spent the last 22 years keeping her there, protecting her from this world. I didn't want her to have to deal with the darkness that I carried. After all these years, I forgot she was not a different person, this other personality of me that I kept hidden. She was me, the truest, most beautiful and vulnerable me. I put her away a long time ago. I was mean for years and then I was too kind for many more and she was right there. I was just too scared to put her skin on because what if this world tore her apart again? So, I watch my kid and I sit at this table with this me and I laugh. What I see is me before the world taught me a few lessons. I read the blog about the birthday wishes and I think how silly because I realize I'm not a dumb kid in my twenties whose worth depends on how often my phone rings. My worth is what I decide it to be. I sat at that table in the corner with myself and I offered her my hand. I said it's about time we step out of this dark corner, isn't it? There's been so many changes this year. It's time I went back to my roots, to let that beautiful girl that I've hid away become a woman, too. I'm 40 years old and for the first time I feel the sun on my face.