I'm 50 now. Actually, closer to 51 as of this writing. My last post was about turning 49 -- simultaneously seems like 20 years ago, and 20 minutes ago.
Fifty isn't terrible, but it's definitely different. Yes, many people are living longer, remaining physically and intellectually active for decades beyond their 50th jubilee. We're a good-looking bunch...for our age. And examples of folks pursuing new careers and accomplishing amazing things only because of the seasoning that comes with years lived truly inspires me. But, it feels like a bittersweet graduation of sorts. Congratulations! You made it through life's undergraduate school! Graduate programs are highly individualized and length of study is unknown. Good luck! Commencement date for advanced life degrees varies. And, it's curtains.
In addition to being 50, I'm now the mother of a college student. My oldest son, Parke, graduated from high school and is studying something...somewhere. He's as prepared and ready as a young person can be in this fast-paced, competitive, complicated time. He left excited and happy!
My college transition experience was the antithesis of Parke's.
August 1984 -- Austin, Texas
I watched the rental car back away. My parents in the front seat, Dad driving, looking over his shoulder to avoid hitting something -- and probably avoid looking at me -- Mom sitting beside him, and my 15-year-old brother peering between them from the backseat. My family said goodbye to me, returned their rental car, and boarded a plane for Phoenix, Arizona. They moved for my father's job the same weekend I transitioned to life as a college student.
I stood in an alley adjacent to the women's co-op that was my new home as my family left, and cried. It was what I thought I wanted. I was three months beyond my 18th birthday. The boy I loved, and had planned to attend college with, had bizarrely been denied admittance to the large state school. He instead, was going to an even better private university in Dallas -- three hours away. I didn't have a car or much spending money, and neither did he. I was completely alone. My family, now states away, and a steady boyfriend, essentially gone.
College wasn't awesome for me. Confused, mentorless, heartsick, and homesick, I flopped around for a few years unsure of what to do or who I was. I only lasted in Texas for a year before transferring to a smaller Arizona school. In hindsight, the giant state school was a terrible fit for a young, naive, immature, directionless girl. There's no one to blame and there's much more to my story; my experiences have made me who I am.
But, I want something different...better...for my kids. My husband feels the same and comes from a similar mentorless, freewheeling past. Some guidance, attention, and support within the education system would have been nice. However, as the saying goes...if things had been too much different, my husband and I wouldn't have met, fallen in love, and created our family. None of us can imagine not knowing our children.
August 2016 -- Malibu, California
So...my son. We attended a comprehensive new student/parent orientation program for a few days at his school before saying goodbye. Then we cried like babies. Parke's attending a school of his choosing (funded by a sizeable scholarship -- we're not fans of paying big money for undergraduate education), and we've done our best to ensure he's had, and has, the things we felt were lacking in our stories. Classic projection. But, projected with so much love, sincerity, and desire for our son to know he is supported. No matter what.
Back to my 50th
June 5, 2016 was a beautiful day. My son had graduated three days prior -- an equally beautiful day -- and my family was happy and healthy. A 40-mile bike ride with my husband and father made me feel grateful for my health. A barbecue dinner in the backyard with my parents, husband, and sons left me feeling loved and celebrated. The simplest things are truly the grandest, and most memorable. For me.
I know my son's college commencement date -- May 2020. My advanced life degree commencement date? TBD. But, I intend to graduate with honors.