Enjoying the Ride


Last summer, I felt nervous about my daughter Riley leaving for college after her high school graduation. The anticipatory anxiety was overwhelming at times. A year later, she’s completed her first year with flying colors, and the guys and I had a great year at home. Even though I was consumed with worry before she left, everything worked out just fine. I am proud of how all of us adjusted and thrived. Then, the other day at church, while I was holding my son Jed’s hand in a prayer circle for the 2023 seniors, tears started to prick my eyes. Jed is going to be a senior in the coming year. Because we’d made it through Riley’s senior year and freshman year of college, I lulled myself into thinking it would be a breeze next time. And while it may be easier because I have survived one child leaving the nest, I now realize that I will still ride an emotional roller coaster with Jed as a senior. 

Life is like that sometimes. We think we’ve got it all figured out because we’ve been through something similar previously. But then what worked with one child completely backfires with a different child. We think we’ve anticipated all the things that can go wrong and have prepared for all contingencies but are thrown for a loop of epic proportions. We believe we’ve worked through an emotional situation, only to have a song or memory fell us with a flood of tears. 

When I was helping Riley move out of her dorm recently, her best college friend Julia and I were talking when she said her high school volleyball coach used to tell them that progress was not linear. Athletes may enjoy a good streak and then have a terrible game. That didn’t mean all their training and advancement were lost. It simply meant they had a bad game. 

In our lives, we may be on an uphill trajectory but then take a dip before we again proceed upward. Of course, trusting that a step backward is merely part of the process and not a devastating failure is easier said than done. I find that I both overanalyze my negative emotions and try to avoid them at all costs. I also tend to blow them out of proportion as opposed to giving them their proper place. Making a mountain out of an emotional mole hill is my expertise. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I need to practice allowing and accepting my emotions as they occur. Then, after I’ve permitted myself to experience those emotions, I can decide if I need to give them more time and attention or chalk them up to a temporary downturn.    

So, as I face the start of Jed’s senior year, I’m going to try and hang on as we ride the nonlinear roller coaster with its scary parts and exhilarating portions knowing we will make it through it all. I can’t avoid the tears, but I will attempt to enjoy the ride.

P.S. Right before I posted this, Jed came in from his last day of school and said, “Well Mom, I’m a senior in high school. Only one year left.” And I burst into tears.  

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