Finding yourself at any time in your life is full of all kinds of ups and downs. As an empty nester in my mid-forties, I feel like I am finding myself for the first time.
As parents, when our children leave home, life feels like one big awaking. It is a time in which we must learn who we are and what we like to do. At times, it can feel like we are in the process of reinventing ourselves.
For me, I dreaded the time that my child would leave home since the day that I found out I was going to be a mom. As an adoptee from a broken home, infected by the side effect of drug addiction, I knew that this was my chance to make a difference. It was my chance to be the best mom that I could be. I was not going to give up.
With the same mindset of not giving up, Rob and I not so gracefully leaned into our next stage of life; being an empty nester. The process of finding ourselves all over again is a bit raw. But I think that is how it is supposed to be.
This article intends to share our story of reinventing ourselves when our son moved out so that you can start finding yourself and your happiness.
Knowing that you are not alone is the key!
- My first identity: Mom
- Finding yourself in your forties
- Dream about your future
- Time to take a chance
- Oh, the Places You’ll Go
- Finding your purpose
- Identify your “why” and then go for it!
My first identity: Mom
I remember the day that I learned I was going to be a mom. It was my seventeenth birthday. Rob and I had only been married for a month and a day. Rob took me to my appointment at our local health department so that I could get put on birth control.
Yes, a month and a day into our marriage we went for birth control. Don’t judge – we were young and dumb.
One of the requirements for birth control was passing a pregnancy test. I failed. With shock and disbelief, I sat there as the county health clinic employee informed me that I had options. The lady bluntly delivered the line: “your baby is just a parasite and you have options.”
With Rob sitting in the waiting room, I kindly thanked the lady who took my test and then promptly left empty-handed.
Rob waited until we were in the parking lot to ask me about where my supply of birth control was. Still, in shock, I replied with “I am pregnant.”
It was a long and quiet ride home that day. It was as if we had hit the fast forward button on our lives. The only thing that we both knew at that moment was that we were never going to give up.
We had no financial means and very little thought of tomorrow at that time in our lives. Dumb was definitely on our side.
Thank goodness, children are resilient.
Finding yourself in your forties
My father used to say that it’s never too late to do anything you wanted to do. And he said, ‘You never know what you can accomplish until you try.’ – Michael Jordan
Finding yourself in your forties is can be messy at times. Rob and I found out how messy becoming empty nesters is when our baby was getting ready to leave home.
The two of us started spending more money and started talking to one another less. Lost and scared we had to begin the process of learning more about ourselves and each other.
We had spent the past twenty-five years being mom and dad, and we had no clue of what our future held once our son moved out.
We watched as coworkers went through the process and realized how many of them ended up with a hard reset in life: divorce.
Rob and I quickly decided that divorce was not the path for us. You see, we had attempted to leave one another on numerous occasions in our twenty-five years. The thing we found is that the universe just is not having anything to do with it, we are meant to be together.
[Or at least that’s how we explain our relationship! We are both a bit on the stubborn side 😉 ]
So we began the process of a reactive reinvention of self that quickly migrated into a proactive reinvention according to the site: The Startup. [Thank goodness!]
Reactive reinvention occurs when an external event occurs and forces you to change. You do not have a choice. You must change in order to move forward in your life.
Proactive reinvention is when you intentionally change in order to capitalize on a trend or opportunity in front of you.
We have since decided that no matter what phase of reinventing yourself you are currently in, it is challenging.
Dream about your future
Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be?
These seem like silly questions since it is you that is staying put as your child packs their bags. But this is your chance for a change too.
So often we get stuck in the day to day grind that the thought of chasing our dreams never cross our minds. We stick to our routines and forget that the world is full of so many possibilities and so many things to do.
Rob had such insight when it came to the few months before our son leaving. He started researching online DNA testing.
You see, I had spent my entire adult life attempting to avoid any thoughts associated with my adoption. It was something that I knew had the potential to complicate our lives and I was not willing to add any unnecessary drama to the task of raising two kids.
Time to take a chance
The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin
It was my turn to find out where I came from and the circumstances surrounding my parents giving me up for adoption.
The idea of finding my biological parents was such a scary thought for me. But I spit in the tube like a champ and waited for my results.
A few weeks later, the results were here. Ancestry.com had found several relatives; one just happened to be a first cousin.
From the results, I was able to reverse engineer “my family” tree of strangers. One by one I backtracked my origins and finally felt confident in the results and emailed several of the matches.
A reply came shortly. Within a few weeks of spitting in a tube, I was speaking to my biological dad. A few weeks later I met my biological mom.
The experience was eyeopening and quite tragic, but it was my catalyst to start dreaming. It was the realization that I needed to remind myself never to stop dreaming; never stop reaching for more.
My adoptive parents do not determine my limitations, nor do my biological parents. The only one who can limit where I go is me.
Oh the places you’ll go
The Dr. Suess book, Oh the Places You’ll Go, has been a motivating force for graduates for years. As you watch your graduate venture out into this world, now is the time that you need to start thinking hard about where you want to be.
If you are anything like us, our next significant forced change, or reactive reinvention, is building an online business so we can gain location independence.
Now is the time that you must think about what do you want to do, who do you want to be in the period that it is going to take you to get from here to there?
A few years back, our family lost Rob’s mom to ovarian cancer. She was only sixty-four years old. Her death was a wake-up call to all of us.
She loved to travel and scrimped and saved so that in retirement, she could travel the world. One year into her retirement, she was diagnosed with cancer. One year after that, she passed away.
She lived in the same town for over forty years; the unfortunate thing is that she did not care for the town. The thing was, it was stable. It was safe. Her home was paid for, and so the logical thing to do was continue living there until retirement.
Unfortunately, that is how life works sometimes. We postpone happiness with the idea that tomorrow is the day.
Her loss taught us that today is the best day ever. Today is the day to try something new.
Finding your purpose
As a parent, your purpose is to create little people who are independent in thought and mind. Little people who are not afraid to make decisions; right or wrong. Your purpose is to instill confidence and strength in your kids so that they are not afraid to move forward.
It is crazy how all of these lessons we have taught our children for all these years are not lessons that we follow. We can get trapped in a moment and lose our way.
In 2018 I had the realization that my identity came in two parts: I was a mom first. Secondly, I was an employee.
Sounds pretty glamorous – I know.
As an employee, I started in the mailroom of the company I work for. Following thirteen years of dedicated service to this company, I now run the billing department of twelve employees.
But in 2018 my eyes were opened to the realization that my self-worth hinged upon the health of the company I work for. My realization happened when I saw a drastic shift in the unity of the management team.
This shift in unity impacted not only my role in the company but my self-worth. It was this moment that I realized that I had given everything that I am and a further investment of me is futile.
I have reached the top of my career with the company, and I want more from life.
Once I became aware that I had put a ceiling on my life based on my success in this organization that did not care about me, I felt invigorated. I had identified the problem; now onto the solution.
Identify your “why” and then go for it!
It was from watching our children reach out into the world and find their ways that I found the courage to explore my interests and reach again.
It is their energy that inspired the blog that you are reading right this minute.
I started looking at the world for what it is and all that it can be. I realize that I may be in my forties, and our nest may be empty, but I still have so much life to live.
There are so many things I have yet to see.
Rob and I started our journey of discovery in 2018. We started by paying off all of our nonmortgage debt to ensure that we have the resources needed to take the next leap in our life together.
The process of debt payoff prompted us to also give up our habit of nearly twenty years – smoking.
Now our focus is on building an income that will take us to the location independence that we crave.
After spending over twenty years in the same town, we are ready to go out on the road and continue our never-ending journey of finding ourselves.
Share your story below of how you are working to find yourself!