Empty Nester

I was talking to someone the other day about how she was “scared to death” about what she was going to be doing next year.  What was she going to be doing? NOTHING.  And that was the problem.

Empty nester.  Of course when you hear the term people sound all “excited” like “yeah, I finally get to do whatever I want now” but the problem is that very few of us actually know what we want.

Before I had children, I was working as a computer consultant and I was also taking art classes up in New York City.  I got pregnant right around the time we moved back to North Carolina so I ended up back here pregnant, no job, very few friends and no idea what to do with myself.

Kevin was starting a new job with our family business but I was just hanging out.  You would think it would be easy coming back home but in fact, I hadn’t lived in North Carolina on a steady basis for about 12 years so it wasn’t like I was still in touch with a lot of people.

It’s hard to imagine, in this time of email and Facebook, but back in the old days the only way to really keep in touch was by mail.  Phone calls were ridiculously expensive and I wasn’t much of a letter writer so by the time I moved back here I really didn’t know many people.

However, Keely was soon born and between having an infant and building a house I was pretty busy.  Soon thereafter, we moved into our new house and there were other young mothers around and between my neighborhood, my family and mothers’ morning out I managed to arrange some play dates and make friends.

Fast-forward 22 years through school and activities such as swimming, field hockey and lacrosse and I have been quite busy.  But for me and for my friend, those days are over.  So what to do now?

I had actually already decided to get back into sculpting and painting and of course, my blog takes up a fair amount of time, but still, it’s difficult to figure out what to do with your time that is actually fulfilling.  It’s not just filling up the time, it’s filling up the time in a ways that makes you feel good.

I told my friend that I totally understood how she felt but that I had actually started addressing it a little earlier (last year) but that I thought what she needed to do was to carry a small journal EVERY DAY and make a list of anything that made her happy.  For example, if she was cooking and loved it or she was gardening and was pleased she should write that down.

I wanted her to start tracking what did and did not fulfill her.  That way, she could figure out if she wanted to take classes … or write … or really anything.  Once you identify what you like and don’t like, then you can have some direction.

My mother, for example, was quite involved in several charities.  But she didn’t just serve as president of those charities.  In one such organization they had a fashion show every year and my mom wrote the script.  Yes, there was a script.  She also drew and did needlepoint but not just any needlepoint, she went to specialized needlepoint shows and did amazing work.

So you see? If you find what makes you feel happy, whether it’s creative or talking to people or writing or anything, then you can target an activity that utilizes that skill set.

One goal I have for my kids is to find a job they love, not just a job they can do.  They can do anything but if they find something they love then they’ll never quit to when all is said and done with raising their kids (should they choose to have any) they’ll still have their job.

I was made to take a job, any job that paid well so I could support myself.  I totally get this because my dad was a “child of the depression” but because I tolerated my job and didn’t love it, I quit as soon as possible.  I don’t want this for my kids.

So whether Keely is a writer (which I think she wants to be) or is in publishing or even in something else, I want her to find something fulfilling.  The same could be said of my friend.  Find out what you love to do and THEN find a career or passion that incorporates these skills.

Of course, this is a luxury many people don’t have.  They have to earn a living and take what they can get but if you have the option, this is the route I would take.

Meanwhile, for those of you trying to “rediscover yourself” I say experiment and try different things.  Keep a journal and write stuff down and soon you too will discover your inner passion.

Good luck!

What fulfills you? What’s just filling time?