I am in unfamiliar territory. This week, both Aliyah and Hannah move to college and Todd and I become empty nesters. Both daughters have lived away for long periods, but this feels different, and frankly, more unnerving than I ever expected. This is one of those periods in life when the medley of polar emotions can be simply exhausting. I am not quite sure from where the tears originate. Deep sadness? The closing of 20 years of abundant art, creativity, music, chatter, conversation, activity filling our home day in and day out? Or deep pride and joy? The dawn of witnessing these two talented, funny, bright, engaging, intuitive, confident, young women move out into independence both to pursue their passions? Excited anticipation? I am finally able to place all the energy and time I spent helping them navigate the world, into my own creative endeavors. Paralyzing fear? I am finally able to place all the energy and time I spent helping them navigate the world, into my own creative endeavors. I suspect all are correct. (Hence, the reason why tissue boxes around the house are as plentiful as reading glasses these days.)
Fear. It is a word that fortunately, despite many potential opportunities, has not often found its way into our vocabulary. The truth is, looking at the last three years of our family's lives, there were plenty of situations when that emotion could have overcome us all. I don't think anyone would have questioned or blamed us if we had all let fear insinuate itself into our lives now and then. But somehow, we just didn't let it.
When Aliyah decided, after many years of growing up with the daily challenges of a facial difference, to pursue a series of full craniofacial surgeries, she could have easily succumbed to her fears, which I am sure were real and significant. As a matter of fact, there were countless opportunities throughout her entire childhood, to shy away from all the activities, events, camps, trips, jobs, interviews, interactions for fear of being excluded or misunderstood...again. But in all of those cases, I witnessed her bravely resist that fear and not let it preclude her from becoming the person she envisioned herself to be. She was determined to not let it threaten her chances to expand her world with wonderful, enriching experiences and dedicated, loving relationships.
When Hannah first began as a young girl, to find great joy on stage, singing, dancing and acting for hundreds of people, she never let the small butterflies become big monsters. When she strived to take these creative interests more seriously in high school, and had to audition for roles or participate in more specialized performing arts groups, she pushed through those nauseating emotions, kept her eye on the ball and recognized that there were great experiences beyond those fears. When she decided a year ago, to follow those dreams even more intensively into her college years, I watched her quiet that anxiety, and swallow that frog over and over and over again in competitive auditions where hundreds of other talented, focused, skilled actors sat beside her wanting that same slot. She visualized herself in those roles and places and although many times, she did not get exactly what she wanted, she continued to transcend the uneasiness. And when it was all said and done, every new adventure offered her tremendous development and wonderful, loving friendships.
As I say good bye to two of my dearest friends, two of my most cherished individuals, and I again, watch them confidently take the necessary risks essential for growth and change, I realize they have much to teach me. As I also begin an unexplored journey, and move into a place filled with new dreams of my own, I feel an uncomfortable fear creeping into some of that space. Being vulnerable and scared is not something I often allowed myself to feel through those years of childrearing. As a mother, we try to be the great strength for our children to hold on to during those difficult times. When there are added obstacles, we dig deep to create an intense, inner fortitude for everyone to draw from. These days, I feel more of an equilibrium. I draw from their courage as much as they do from mine. As Aliyah and Hannah did on so many different occasions, I will face those fears one piece at a time. From them both, I have learned how courage feeds and nurtures our character.
I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness my daughters, as my dad would say, "taking the bull by the horns and biting the bullet" throughout their youthful years. As I walk over this threshold into my next chapter, wanting to grow and expand as well, I shall now brave the discomfort and do the same. Because I know on the other side of it, there are great experiences, new, wonderful friends and rich, enduring adventures!