I will never be so happy to put a period on a year as I am this one.
As I await the final hours of 2016, it is taking all I have to try and focus on the good things that came out of this year with Earbaby. There was plenty of anger and disappointment in some of her behavior and choices, and no vindication by her regrets and remorse. Still, there were some good things too. And as we enter the last five months of her high school years, I'm hoping the hardest lessons learned won't be forgotten.
The good things though: A year ago I had ended my job after 27 years and was looking forward with trepidation and sadness about what would come next in my personal next chapter. I had at this point, about 10 months fully paid, to decide when I would return to work. I had given up my career, and a big part of my identity. We got to travel to Ireland and Scotland as a family, a major positive. For the first time my husband and I could go out to a movie, or a football game, or just to dinner without having to plan three or four weeks in advance. The freedom was wonderful, having it fully financed helped. But I won't lie, I missed my friends at work, I missed having a purpose, and I refused to celebrate "retirement." I wasn't ready to stop working forever.
But this also gave me an opportunity to fly home for Mother's Day and my own mother's 93rd birthday. Had I been working, I would have had to arrange things so that I didn't miss too many days at work, especially had they stuck to the new schedule I had been given of having to work all weekend. When your schedule is your own, you can get the best fares for the best price, come home rested and not worry you have to drop your bags and rush off to work. You can take your dog for evening walks, go to the YMCA to work out, arrange to take yourself out to breakfast, and dance a few mornings a week without being exhausted from a late night shift. And yet, there was also that underlying anxiety of "am I ever going to work again?"
Earbaby also had a tough year. Her first boyfriend experience ended up more toxic and sour and regrettable than any of us would have imagined. She became a person she didn't want to be (but truthfully, some of her actions started before the boyfriend came into her life), decided to take advice and guidance from friends even less mature than herself, and blew up her family because she rationalized that she was "in love." They no longer speak, and if there is any good that comes from this, it will be the lesson learned that you don't lose yourself in another person, especially one who is emotionally unstable, manipulative and abusive. I hope with all my heart that this year of hard lessons will never be unlearned. I pray she will now recognize the red flags of bad and controlling people, something some of us didn't learn until we were many, many years older. She has listened finally to my advice about being with people who make you want to be your best self --not your worst. I pray she remembers that lesson when she gets to college. There could be even more snakes and sharks out there. Having dealt with one, I hope she will immediately see the signs and walk away.
The recovery from all this has been a reintroduction to just being a teenager in high school. Her friends are back, she has a social life of more than one person now, she is working to regain the trust that was lost during the lying, secrecy, sneaking around phase of her life, and she's trying to enjoy the rest of her senior year. She's also trying to narrow down the choices she has to go to college. My alma mater has not only accepted her, but has volunteered to throw a ton of money her way. That's tempting, and she liked it, but she still has a few more irons in the fire and is waiting to see if she gets in somewhere else. It's still has to be her college experience, and I've told her that she only has to take one step at a time. If she picks some place and it turns out not to be a good fit, well, she doesn't have to suffer through it for four years. That sounds scandalous, but in today's world, no one should expect to make decisions on the rest of her life at the age of 18. But that first acceptance letter assures her (and us) that she is college bound.
EB getting her driver's license has also been a huge highlight. She is confident and careful and driving herself places frees me up. She hasn't asked us to buy her a car, or even to take over her dad's. She is practical -- she will be going away to school in about eight months, and no college encourages freshmen to bring their cars. Plus, she will be going several states away, no matter where she lands, and that complicates things on many levels. Right now she's just content to take it when she can and has even been able to take one car or another to school. The downside is that she can't drive any of her friends for the first six months. But that can be an upside too. Fewer people mean fewer distractions.
This election year has been the biggest disappointment in the year I would love to be able to take back. The hatred and bigotry exposed in the presidential election has left many of us in despair. I even encouraged EB to apply for college in Canada and Ireland. She may not go either place if she gets in, but in a country that is increasingly hostile to anyone who isn't a straight white person, especially white male, it's difficult not to believe that all hope is lost and too many of our fellow citizens are devoid of common decency.
Still, I'm trying to end this year on a positive note. I've got a new job, new purpose and a new lease on my career. I am looking at my new challenges as a chance to make a difference at a smaller venue. I'm in a place where I'm respected for my knowledge and experience and I'm feeling that sense of purpose that I haven't felt for many years. With the added benefit of setting my hours so I may occasionally work from home, it's easier to go back to the night work I didn't want. The nights aren't as long, and the anxiety level isn't as high, and yet, I feel like my work matters.
This Christmas season also made the year end on a high note. I went home for the first time in decades. This time of year had stopped being as much fun, obviously as EB grew up and stopped believing in the magic of Santa Claus. But it also stopped being fun when we stopped hosting. So this year, with one of my nieces giving birth to the first of the next generation and Zoe in from South Korea for a few weeks, we decided this was the year to go. Also, I had a milestone birthday and my husband arranged a great family party at a restaurant to celebrate. It was a Christmas to remember, and despite the stress of travel, well worth the trip.
This year has had a lion's share of low valleys with those high peaks. Sometimes those lows made me forget about the peaks. I was distressed for so much of it, but things are looking up. Finally. We've got one more bumpy year to go with Earbaby. It won't be smooth sailing. This year didn't kill any of us. It only made us (and especially her) stronger. And so it begins again.
Hold onto your hats. And Happy New Year.