You quit your job to stay home and now your kids are launched (at least they are in school most of the day). You’ve volunteered for everything from class representative to PTA president. You’ve carpooled, you’ve brought snacks after soccer, you’ve attended yet another school play. You’ve been there for the braces, the training bra, the horrors of teenage acne. And finally, in the silence of night, you awake and realize that faint sound is the earth spinning seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. And suddenly, you are 45.
You don’t bother with the how-did-this-happen. You made your choices. Your regrets are vague wisps rising from the ashes of what was once your sense of self. You know it’s time to begin again, to lose the feathers like a bird reborn, break out of the cage and…
You mine your passions and know that the only thing left is to circle back to the beginning and ask who was I, who am I, who do I want to be. You have a long list of who you aren’t and a longer list of who you won’t be. You take your pen – you don’t bother with pencils, there is so no time – and make large bold X’s down the page. You won’t be President, you won’t be CEO, you won’t be singing in Carnegie Hall, you won’t be finding the cure for AIDS, you won’t be changing the world for women and girls, their fathers and brothers. The list becomes far shorter than you ever imagined.
You begin again with circles – X’s have become too limiting – and create Venn diagrams of possibility. You love writing, sharing, revealing. You love building communities and bridges and wading in large pools of absolution, forgiveness, and unconditional love. You want to speak truth and realize you could be a storyteller – you’ve been living a life of fiction for years.
And so it begins. You start school, praying for second, third, fourth chances, all optimism and great hope. You love your classes, your classmates, your professors. You laugh when you realize you are just another spoke in the wheels of diversity – older, returning student next to young poet of color, memoirist in a wheelchair, writer from the center of the gender divide. Everyone has a voice and the harmony is the sound of what could be.
At home, you study beside your children joining them in a Greek chorus of complaints: Tests! Projects! Papers! You miss your daughter’s soccer game, again. You’re late for dinner, again. You reschedule dentist appointments; their teeth are clean enough. You yell at the cosmos and sometimes your husband. You are humbled, living life in child’s pose, arms extended, forehead to the ground begging for clarity. Is this what you wanted when you knew you wanted change? You wonder if, perhaps, it wouldn’t just be better to let this dream fade away.
And then you hear your daughter telling her best friend, “My mom? She’s done all kinds of things, but now she’s a writer.” You realize you are no longer doing this for you alone. You must finish what you have begun because you need to teach her a mother is a phoenix and will rise and rise and rise.