Yesterday, my youngest child (my “baby”), graduated from high school. His graduating class was only thirty-one students and I’d known several of them since their preschool years so it was very bittersweet watching these young men and women accepting their hard-won diplomas and tossing their caps in the air.
Throughout the week there have been special events to honor the graduating class—a senior dinner, a tea, a cookout, a baccalaureate. There was a speaker at each event, and each one had eloquent and empowering thoughts to give to the graduates about how to live the rest of their lives with honor, dignity and purpose. One favorite quote among many was given by the headmaster: “There are only two important days in your lives. The first is the day you are born. The second is when you figure out why.” (Mark Twain).
There were so many instructions for the seniors—but what about for their parents who would find themselves minus one child come Fall? Is our work done? Time to retire? To curl up in a ball and gather dust? Or is this, too, a new chapter in our own lives and something to anticipate with joy?
I’ve had fifteen novels published in the last eleven years, and I think that sort of longevity in this publishing world might tell you that I’m not the type to roll over or go away just because the game rules have suddenly changed. Success is about seeing opportunity in change—something I’ve learned the hard way in my writing career, just as I suspect those graduating seniors will as they navigate the rest of their lives.
At a post-graduation party, I was talking with the high school placement counselor and she asked me how I was feeling now that my last child was perched and ready to fly from the nest. I told her that I was a bit sad, but excited, too—for all of us. I explained it felt like we were moving to a new house that was just as nice as the last one, but totally and completely new.
The previous day, I had just finished the first chapter of my brand new novel that will be published in the summer of 2014. To further explain my feelings, I said, “Facing this fall with no kids at home is like starting a new book. It’s a little scary, a little thrilling, completely new, but wonderfully and wholly overwhelming at its endless well of opportunity. A blank page can be a glorious thing.”
“Ah,” she replied. “I’ll have to remember that to tell to next year’s parents. You certainly have a way with words.”
I smiled. Yes, I suppose. I guess I do.
It’s time now to throw my own cap in the air, to start the next chapter. Life, and writing, is all about moving forward. I’d better get busy.