While visiting my mom recently, I said, “Mom, remember when you used to say, ‘I hope you have a daughter just like you?’ In case you haven’t figured it out by now, your wish came true.”
My 18-year old daughter Annie is so much like me it’s scary.
I realized how much Annie is like me as I drove her to a doctor appointment in Utah. I almost drove off the side of University Avenue in Provo while listening to her rattle off her long list of urgent goals. She sounded so much like the college version of me that I screamed, “Annie, you sound just like me!”
I quickly apologized, knowing that she might not appreciate the comparison.
I felt like I needed to assimilate what I was experiencing. It sounded like she read all my journal entries and absorbed them in her DNA somehow.
“I’m so stressed Mom. I need a plan! I need to know how everything is going to progress over the next four years. And, by the way, I don’t think I can do everything I want to do in four years. I think it will take five. I want to do an internship in Africa. (Oh, and did I tell you I’ve been learning the tribal languages? I have words and sentences taped around my dorm room.) But, back to how I need a plan. I need to know how to schedule out my classes over the next five years so I don’t miss anything.”
“Annie, slow down. You don’t have to know these things now!”
Hypocrite, a little voice echoes in my head.
“Mom,” she protested. “I don’t want to waste time!”
“Annie, you’ve been her for six weeks! You can’t expect to know your major, have every semester’s schedule planned in advance, and know your career plans now. It will all evolve. You don’t have to control it all right now.”
Hypocrite! The voice says a little louder.
Be quiet, I command the inner voice. I’m an adult now, and I don’t need to know my entire life’s plan. I trust the universe and all those other platitudes. Don’t you think I remember how I obsessed over my short and long-term plans, and how frustrated I became when I didn’t know everything I needed to know to fill in the blanks of my entire life? I’m not like that anymore.
Well, I am wondering about this empty nest life I’m facing. But, I’m confident it will evolve naturally, and my life will still be fulfilling, rewarding, and fun.
“Mom, it’s just that everything is so important now,” Annie said. “I just can’t afford to waste time or I won’t get what I want.”
“Annie, this is so eerie! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said exactly what you’re saying. Now I wish I’d slowed down a bit. It’s good to have plans, but sometimes you have to let life happen. Sometimes we get so consumed with our plans, schedules, goals and dreams that they become burdens and just pile on more stress. If you don’t loosen your grip on your plans sometimes, you miss out on some of the lessons you really need to learn.”
Wasn’t it John Lennon that said something about how life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans? Plan or no plan, life just happens sometimes. I’m all about letting it happen now.
Sure you are, the voice whispers.
“Mom, you don’t get it. Everything matters more now that I’m in college.”
I know she’s right. I felt that way too when I was in college. I believed it even more when I had children. Wasting valuable time was my worst fear. I wanted to remind her that life doesn’t always go according to The Big Plan. In fact, sometimes it goes way off The Big Plan and we need a little flexibility to accommodate for the stuff we didn’t anticipate. But, I let it go, knowing that I was already in eye-rolling territory.
A few days after I came home, she called and said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking about my life and how things have played out for me lately. I mean, I had a big plan, and it didn’t work out. When I tore my ACL playing lacrosse everything changed for me. It took me out of my favorite sport during my senior year, and killed my dream of playing college lacrosse, at least for now. It’s weird how things change because in college, nobody knows the “me” I was at home. I’ve lost my status as class president, my athletic ability, my friends, and everything that was familiar and comfortable to me, but I realize now that I can find new things and just rework the plan a bit. I can build my confidence in other areas, and it’s all okay.”
I hung up the phone thinking, I love that girl — that cooler, wiser version of me. I love that sometimes when I hold back from spewing out too much advice, she learns more from her own life experiences than she ever could from my words. Then she one-ups me and teaches me something new.
As I move into my new phase of empty nest life, and lose all my labels, I’m going to dip into Annie’s well of wisdom and rework the plan, build my confidence in new areas, and trust that it will all be okay.
After all, it’s working out pretty well for her.