The Seismic Shift by Lisa Rafferty
There’s really no way to prepare for the seismic shift that is your youngest child going off to college. No amount of mental preparation, pre-grieving or advice from friends is going to fully serve to alleviate the visceral, monumental change that occurs after 21 years of putting other human beings above all else in your life.
There are certain common patterns that form a natural flow to the shape of our lives. High school for four years, and college too – if all goes well. A couple of years, or even months, in that first post-grad job. Your twenties are about adjusting to new realities, new friendships, new romance, new careers.
For many of us, the next seismic shift occurs on, about or after a wedding day. But that is a time filled with joy and possibility, and not, with any luck, a leap into the unknown.
Your first child comes along and like every cliché you ever heard, nothing is ever the same. Then a second and a third and suddenly, or so it seems, your world is forever filled with more demands on your time that you ever thought possible.
There is nothing quite like the emotional, physical and logistical tidal wave that comes from raising children, no matter how many there are. And so it goes for the longest stretch of anything you have ever done with such intensity and focus. More than two decades.
Your oldest goes off, and you adjust as parents, and fight the void, and learn to let go. And maybe it’s better with the second, except not really, because it doesn’t really matter how many times you do it, it’s still a rending of your heart. But you soldier on, because that’s what we do. What we must do – let them go. Fill out our own lives. Then the moment arrives – the last one getting ready to leave. Empty nest, here we come.
Of course, the lure of freedom – true, boundless freedom – can soften the ache, and offer a vision for what lies ahead. So you focus on that, and all the possibilities for travel, and fun, and adventure. Just like retirement, except not really because all your money is going to the cause of higher education, and so plans and spending on yourselves take that familiar second place in line. How it is was meant to be and thank goodness for financial planning.
So, as the ground quakes, and the chasm opens, here’s hoping that the new chapter will be written in a way that has come before. With all the ebb and flow that is our lives, and secure in the knowledge that this next seismic shift is all part of that natural state, and not the 7.1 Richter scale event that you feel coming.