As I listened to the click of my iPhone camera, it hit me: Without my struggle with empty nest syndrome, I wouldn’t be living and loving my life in New York City now, two years later.
My moment of realization happened a few days ago, when my husband and I were driving through our old neighborhood in Atlanta.
I have lived in 14 houses on three continents, but our house in Atlanta?the one we sold when we moved to New York?was the house of my dreams. I asked my husband to stop the car so I could take a picture. Looking at it made me a little teary.
It was hard for me to believe: Did we really sell this house, get rid of most of our belongings, and embark on a new beginning in New York two years ago? I reminded myself that our vision had become a reality. We ARE living our dream!
A few years ago, when our kids left, I thought I was well prepared. After all, in my professional life, I help women create turning points in their lives and transform challenges into opportunities. Doing the same for myself should have been easy. But the deep sense of sadness and grief I experienced caught me by surprise. I knew all about empty nest syndrome. I could easily talk to other women about the symptoms, the causes, and even the treatment. So why couldn’t I listen to my own advice?
To be honest, my husband dealt with becoming an empty nester much better than I did. He was fully ready for a new adventure. In fact, making the decision to leave Atlanta for New York was simple. Since we had moved so many times, I always told our children that home is wherever we are. I never taught them to stay attached to houses or objects but, rather, to focus on enjoying life no matter where we were on the globe.
Looking back, moving from a five-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment was not the real difficulty for me. I enjoyed starting fresh, owning fewer things, decorating our Brooklyn apartment, and even changing our lifestyle so that we walk a lot, use public transportation rather than drive, and entertain only a few people at a time instead of big groups.
My biggest challenge with the move?the most surprising?was losing part of my identify as a mother. (Yes, I know I’m still my children’s mother and I am proud to watch them grow, but?it’s different!) At the same time, I felt the loss of leaving behind my community and friends in Atlanta.
These relationships feed our soul.
I didn’t imagine it would take so much time to get to know people and to establish a new community in New York. During the first year, I felt disconnected, like I had lost parts of myself. I became impatient.
But things got better in the second year. I have developed meaningful relationships and started to feel a deeper sense of connectedness and belonging.
Did I know two years ago how much I would love my life here? Did I know that my empty nest crisis would turn into a positive change? No, I did not. But since I believe that we can make a choice to create our lives exactly the way we want to, I trusted the decision my husband and I made without having any evidence to show that it was the right one to make!
Empty nest syndrome was not the first challenge I chose to turn into an opportunity. I have experienced several major life events that seemed devastating at first and instead became turning points for me that led to positive change. .
Moving to New York was an adventure we undertook in order to create change, excitement, new beginnings, and vitality in our lives. And the amount of walking and stair-climbing we do now is far more than any physical activity we ever did when we were younger!
I would love to hear from you:
What challenging life event were you able to turn into an opportunity?