Ready or not, here it comes! The last year of high school passes so quickly and there’s so much to do, particularly the last couple of months … graduation announcements, senior pictures, college visits, prom, senior boards, the last track meet (or soccer game or concert), end-of-season banquets, scholarship applications, choosing a college. Before you know it, you’re buying extra-long twin sheets, mini refrigerators and more storage bins and closet organizers than will actually fit in a dorm room, and dropping your baby off at college.
What now? I have several friends getting ready to enter the empty nest world, some with a sense of accomplishment and some with a good deal of trepidation. Here are three things that helped me during year one.
1. Make a plan — Start your planning before the nest is actually empty. Are you a reader? I bet you can come up with at least a dozen books that you’ve been wanting to read. I started the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon and read seven 1,000-page novels in a remarkably short period of time. Love to travel? Make a list of the places you’d like to go. Include weekend trips and something longer, even if it’s something you’ll have to save up for, that you can research and look forward to. Is there a hobby that you just haven’t had time for the past few years? Now’s the time to pick it up again. A friend of mine decided to train for a triathlon. I think that’s a wonderful plan and I wish I had that desire, but so far that hasn’t made it to the top of my list.
We love to travel, so that was a goal for both of us. Shortly after dropping our youngest off at school, we took a road trip from Northern California, through the Rogue Valley and up the coast to Portland. For Valentine’s Day, we drove from our home in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, through Utah and northern Arizona for a long weekend in Scottsdale and Chandler. Our big trip, which has involved a lot of saving and planning, is coming up this fall. Stay tuned for my travel blogs!
2. Start a project — You’re going to have more downtime than you’re used to, so think about the projects you’ve been putting off and pick one, preferably one that involves both of you and has a fun payoff. We decided to remodel our camper. After 10 years of back-country camping with kids, dogs and muddy motorcycle boots, there was a lot to be done. We ripped out old carpeting and linoleum and replaced it all with wood flooring. I’m not allowed to use power tools since I dropped a drill when it was locked in the on position and ran across the room to get away from it, so I concentrated on redecorating, cleaning out all of the cabinets, buying new dishes and reorganizing it all.
After removing some of the games, arts and crafts supplies, inline skates the kids outgrew six or seven years ago and extraneous dishes, utensils and mismatched containers that we’d accumulated over the years, there was room to add a hanging rack for wine glasses, baskets to hold the wine bottles and a nifty new bottle opener we picked up at a winery in Oregon. In other words, fewer crayons and more wine. It was a lot of work, which is just what we needed, and we celebrated with a well-deserved weekend in Moab.
3. Learn something new — Want to learn how to knit a sweater, paint a portrait or dance the tango? Now’s the time! Check your local community college, there are probably some classes that interest you. I’m lucky to live near a Colorado Mountain College campus, which offers four-year degrees plus a wide variety of non-credit classes. I registered for introductory yoga, which, since it was a for-credit class, cost just $56 per semester. Score! It was perfect for a beginner and helped me physically and mentally. It’s still hard for me to clear my mind and focus on my breathing, but I’m a lot better at it than I was a year ago.
I also signed up for eight weeks of cooking and baking classes, which I really enjoyed. Years of trying to squeeze dinner in between sporting events put me into a cooking rut, and these classes helped me spice things up. My biggest accomplishment, though, and the one that surprised my friends and family the most, has been learning to ride a motorcycle. Look out, world!
Most of all, give yourself a break and a pat on the back. It was a long journey to get here. It will take a little while to adjust to the new lifestyle, just like it took a little while to adjust to becoming a parent. And look how well that turned out!
© 2014 Mandy Gauldin