My Son’s Leaving for College!

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I remember when blogging was a “thing.”

Well, it still exists, but now, with so many more people labeling themselves as “content creators,” (and I’ve described myself this way, as well) posting on multiple platforms that blew up after blogging, it sometimes feels like people’s attention spans and blogging may not be compatible anymore. (Didn’t they once say that people’s attention spans are no longer than that of a goldfish?)

But in my heart, I’ll always be a blogger. In fact, blogging about being a new mom is how I got my first start in blogging. And 18 years later, I’m blogging about the emotional impact of sending him off to college this weekend. But I’ll get into that in a moment…

July 4, 2014 – Renovating my laundry room.

 

This morning, as I’m sitting in my “she shed” making a pot of coffee for myself (I became coffee-obsessed in the last couple of months because I love how “cozy” it feels to sip a dark roast in the comfort of my shed!), I felt the urge to just……blog.

No, not “create content” but to simply write, for the love of writing and expressing.

Writing is one of my greatest passions. In fact, many people may not know this, but I’m an avid journaler. And when I say “avid,” last night I clocked my journaling time at about 1.5 hours.

Seriously.

My current journal has about 250 typed pages, and that’s the amount for just the past 3 months! I imagine that an entire year would be well over 1,000 pages of thoughts, feelings, documentations of my life, and how I am processing those events.

It’s nothing for me to open up a document and start typing out whatever thoughts are at the forefront of my mind for that evening. Everything from getting my son ready for college and how I took him to the shooting range for the first time the other (he asked last birthday to go to the range, but now that today he’s turn 18 years old–OMG!–I decided that he’s old enough to make his wish come true), to writing about family drama, to how he and I went shopping the other day to buy things for his summer college dorm (he’s leaving this weekend for a summer program before starting his freshman year). 

First time at the shooting range with an instructor. – July 2024.

I spend copious amounts of time writing, expressing myself, evaluating how I really feel, considering my next steps. And while some of that is private, there is no reason why I can’t get back to the basics of what blogging used to be about: sharing thoughts, ideas, feelings, excitement, and disappointments, in addition to tutorials and step-by-step projects.

That’s what I’m hoping to begin doing, starting with this blog post.

Actually, I was probably one of the earliest adopters of blogging (which got its name from “weblog” and later became just “blog”), but when I say “early” I don’t mean in the very beginning in 1994. I was still in high school at that time, journaling in notebooks about boys I had crushes on, namely my high school boyfriend who had just left for college, sadly leaving me behind). I didn’t even have a computer at that time. All of my journaling was in college-ruled lined spiral notebooks, or sometimes the fancy ones with cloth clovers.

But it was in 2005, just over 10 years later, when I started chatting online with other would-be moms. We were all due with our first babies in July 2006 and we found a kinship that, for some of us, would span our kids’ entire lives. One of the moms posted about online sites where you can keep track of notes, updates, and pictures about your pregnancy.  

I jumped on that bandwagon immediately! What a great way to keep family and friends up-to-date about the new life growing inside of me! And before long, I was logging updates, pictures, thoughts daily. And I’m sure there were all of 20 people (if that!) that were checking the password-protected site, looking for new posts. (I still marvel at how it was password protected in what’s now information that people share so widely now! HA!)

For me, though, it was really just about documenting this new life as a family of 3. I enjoyed writing, and being able to do it electronically and share it with people I loved, was very rewarding.

In fact, I later took all those blog posts and copied them into a PDF file, creating this amazing hard-cover book, dedicated to my son, documenting my experience at being a first-time mom. It has over 400 pages!

And now that little boy is heading off to a summer college program and I’ve joked with him, “What if I do an ugly-cry”? I joke about it, but I worry that that’s exactly what will happen. 

You see, I’m not a very outwardly emotionally vulnerable person. Even as young as six, one of my earliest memories was attending the funeral of a family friend who lived in our neighborhood and her kids were our best friends. I remember not wanting anyone to see me cry. I don’t recall all the details, who was there, what was going on, but I remember that feeling of wanting to cry, but not allowing myself, because even at that age, no one should see me cry.

As I have gotten older, I have continued to live my life with that same mind-set: crying makes you vulnerable–don’t do it, even while alone. And at the very least, never let other people see you cry. So it’s not something that my husband gets to see, nor my kids. But turn on a sappy heart-felt Instagram video where someone is crying and emotional with love or happiness, my eyes will start welling up with tears, and I’ll quickly wipe them away, making sure no one sneaks up and sees.

One of the few times my oldest has seen me cry was when I was dropping him and his dad off at the airport for a 4-week trip to Ghana when he was 5 years old. Sending my son out of the country, when I had never been away from him for any amount of time, was tough. I remember quickly wiping the tears away, trying not to allow him or hubby to see me get emotional. I’ve always “kept it together” and I would continue to “keep it together” even during other emotional times.

(By the way, I also got emotional when he landed safely and I saw his wiry little body crouched on top of the concrete barriers at Arrivals. But nope–hid that emotion, either).

When I think about my 46 years, I’ve only allowed myself to show happiness as my preferred emotion. I’m an upbeat person; not annoyingly so, but when you think of me, you think “optimistic” and “level-headed” and “down-to-earth” and just an easy-going person to get along with (at least, I would like to think so).

In my “she shed,” wearing my favorite thrifted dress – July 2024

You don’t think of me as “emotional” or a “cryer” or someone who easily gets upset (I only have a temper when driving and will curse you out from the safety of my driver’s seat behind glass where you’d never hear me or see any offensive fingers flicked off. HA!)

It wasn’t until recently, when I had tried out therapy sessions, along with having open discussions with friends, that I realized that I am someone who covers up my emotions and reactions often, in order to keep things as they are. The therapist called me out when our session started on day, asking me how I’m doing, and I started talking about how nice the weather was…..and how happy I was that the sun was shining…to which he pointed out, “And yet you have all this turmoil, but you’re still saying about how ‘fine’ and ‘happy’ you are.”

I chose to see it as expressing my truth, that the sun does make me happy and nice weather is one of the things I am grateful for (aren’t we all?). But I think what he was getting at was that instead of addressing the “turmoil,” I was focused on the weather; we even got into a disagreement about how I don’t use the word “turmoil” and he insisted that I’m, again, just avoiding the unpleasant.

Maybe I am. And maybe that’s what I do. But I do acknowledge that I like to keep emotions inside and keep things copacetic for everyone around me, and for my environment. And it’s only in my journal that I let down those walls and say the unpleasant and speak my truths.

There could be levels of “copacetic washing” (i.e. “It’s fine! Everything’s fine!!!!”) where things could be a total disaster and someone is pretending none of it exists, or things could be mildly unpleasant and one just likes to focus on the good, the positive. I feel like I’m on the mild end of this spectrum of “copacetic washing.” 

But even on the mild end, I’m trying to get to a place where it’s okay to say, “Hey, I’m not happy with this situation” or “You know what? I’m feeling a little down today.” Or even allowing myself to shed a tear or two this weekend when dropping off my son at college, if the mood strikes me, without worrying about how vulnerable I will look to those around me. 

I know that the reason I am like this is because I’m just like my mom. She is also someone who, growing up, I never saw her cry or have certain emotions. And I know they were there. They had to be. There were unpleasant things, like poverty, abuse from good-for-nothing men. And when I left for college, the youngest of two girls (it was just my older sister, who’s 3 years old, and myself), it was years later that I learned how truly difficult it was for my mom saying “goodbye” to me.

Why did I never know that?

OMG…..my absolute tomboy years! (Age 11-12)

Because she kept it from me, too. She hid her emotions, not wanting me to know that she was struggling with my absence when I left for a similar summer program in which my son is enrolling. I don’t know how long she struggled for. But she kept it from me, likely because she didn’t want to burden me with that sadness and transition, which is what mothers tend to do, right? “It’s fine. Everything’s fine.”

And now I’m in the same situation, wondering how my son’s leaving home will affect me (thank goodness he will only be 30 minutes away!). I feel a little teary-eyed now, but it could just be the impending move in 2 days. I could adjust easily, as I still have 2 boys at home (ages 14 and 12). My son has been working weekends for the past 7 months, anyhow, and having him gone all day on Saturdays and Sundays, then consumed at his desk the rest of the time playing computer games, gave me a glimpse into what the energy in the house feels like when he’s not here.

I know that leaving for college is something completely different, and I’m bracing myself for what may come.

Loooong line at Walmart, shopping for things for his dorm.

But now that I’m aware of this thing I do called “swallowing my emotions” so that the status quo isn’t rocked, maybe that means this weekend, I will allow myself to shed a tear and not be consumed by who may see it or what they’ll think about it.

And of course, my optimistic outlook is still ever present since I wholeheartedly agree that there is a “bright side” to everything. Let the bright side shine: my son is going to college!!!

How awesome is that?!

July 5, 2014 – His 8th birthday!

While I am worried about the transition for him, and hoping that he’s matured enough to handle the independence and self-regulation that is required, I am also very proud of him for getting this far. It was not without a lot of hand-holding and pushing him, but some kids just need that. And you hope that over time, they “get it” and learn how to function on their own, with Mom and Dad being more of a passenger than the driver of their life. 

He’s excited to start this new journey, and I want to remember how important of an event this is for him!

I want to give him credit for who he is and has always been: sweet, caring, considerate, and loving. No matter what he does in life as a career or what skills training he receives in life, these are inherent qualities that can’t be taught. There is something equally important about just being a good person with a good, thoughtful heart. My son is already a success, simply for possessing these qualities, not just for his future grade point average and earning potential. 

We’re all transitioning from one thing to something else, no matter your age or stage of life: I’m transitioning from a content creator back to a blogger….I’m transitioning from a someone who keeps everything in to someone who’s less afraid to be vulnerable….My son is transitioning from a child to a young adult……from a high schooler to a college freshman….and our family is transitioning from a family of 5 on a daily basis to a family of 4 when college is in session (I’ll be looking forward to holidays and summers, for sure, when my son is back home with us). 

My son’s high school graduation day – May 2024

Transitions are a part of life and we shouldn’t shy away from them. We should embrace them, as uncomfortable and vulnerable as we may be. Because, like butterflies, what results after a transformation that is mushy and unpleasant, is usually something that emerges as one of life’s most beautiful creations. 

 

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. Joseph Whatley says:

    Serena, I’ve always enjoyed reading your blogs. I could always imagine that you were a great English student. I’m an English buff and I love reading anything you write from the beginning to the end.
    Even before you mentioned the word “journaling,” my question was “why haven’t we seen her on TV reading the evening news?”
    I’m so happy that you’re about to transition into a new world. Have fun while you’re embracing it … you have indeed it.

    1. Awww, thank you so much, Joseph! Want to know something funny? When I was a kid of about 5 maybe, I remember how I would take lined notebooks and do a “scribble cursive” across the lines, filling in pages and pages of so-called “writing” before I even know how to write! I think writing was in my soul before I even knew it. It’s the best form of expression. And to know that you read what I write from beginning to end is the best compliment you could have ever given me. Thank you so much for that! As for reading the evening news, oh my! LOL The best I can do it my podcast, if you want to have a listen! You can find it here: https://thriftdiving.com/new-podcast

  2. Serena, you wonderful person.
    Thank you. Thank you for sharing your family, your hopes, your fears, your dreams with us. It was like inviting us into your home… into your space. And thanks mostly for pulling the curtain back just a peek. The woman I’ve come to know since following Thrift Diving is a tool belt wearing, drill wielding, Duluth modeling, talented and creative carpenter and transformer of all things. Confident, bad-ass, fun, lively, and the kind of friend I wished lived next door. And there’s more to you than all of that—now you’ve given us your humanity. Your vulnerability – your trust. You’re so right about transformations… life chapters. I’ve got seventy years of ‘em under my belt. Endings and startings – they’re the same in a way. Exciting, scary, sad, thrilling. You just take a breath, step into it and start the next. OMG – the chapters ahead for you- so, so many. All wonderful. I wouldn’t turn back the clock – and I bet you won’t wish to, either. And you’ve captured them in your journals! These will be even more precious to you as the years go on. My husband and I are on our third volume of “Our Travels Through Life” which began the day we were married, 30-something years ago.
    Congratulations, Serena on stepping boldly into YOUR next chapter! Ruth

    1. Ruth, these words are sooooo beautiful that I’m going to copy and paste them into my personal journal this morning when I sit down to write about how this weekend went getting my son settled into his dorm room! Wow, thank you for this heart-felt comment. I teared up a bit reading it. Love you for this!

  3. Just think that you have raised a wonderful son, and you are now giving him his wings to fly and the freedom to be what he wants to be.
    My Dad drove me to nursing school helped me carry my things to my room gave me a kiss goodby but you know what? I was so busy taking everything in I hardly noticed him leaving.
    Three years later my parents came up to me at graduation and said go forward but never forget your family. I did go forward but my family was always near and dear to me.
    I think your son will have you on speed dial cause he loves his Mom!

  4. I’ve taken 3 to college and dropped them – 3 1/2 Hours from home. I didn’t get easier, but they all did amazingly well. I’m sure your son will also. My thought for you is his siblings may struggle more than you expect – or they may be happy to have the extra space and food at the table. LOL. Mine missed the one who had left. I did cry, but I only teared up in front of them. The boo-hooing started in the car most all the way home and on and off for days, but they all know their mama is emotional. I’m excited for your son and the days ahead for him. We raised them to be responsible adults. Now they get to do it. That’s something we had a part in. And I’m thrilled to read your blogging.

  5. It’s OK to cry – do it.
    And your Son is adorable. Let him be who he is.
    Joanna

  6. Hey girl, hey it’s your friend Robin in Texas. I have loved watching you and your family grow. You have become such a remarkable person through the trials of all of your projects. Love the green thrifted outfit and love the red popping lipstick. Girl, how adorable is that?. 🧨😘🧨

  7. charmaine says:

    Hey girl,

    Lovely read! I am proud of you for sharing, it takes strength and guts to do that as a strong female. I know, because I am the same.
    As Bob Marley would say “every little thing is gonna be alright”

    Keep up the good work and keep going!

  8. Now, I’m female and old enough to be your mother. So, the things I’m about to state are from a perspective and place that has been there and done that. I’m not referring to the empty-nest syndrome (done that too). I’m talking about your issues with covering up your feelings. It’s a long post you’ve written, and a lot of it is about keeping your feelings bottled up. Your seeing a therapist is a very good thing. Talking out our concerns with someone object and trained is a good thing. Kudos to you for that. Reading the second paragraph it occurred to me: “she’s too worried about what other people think of her. ” Reading further, I saw this: “…not be consumed by who may see it or what they’ll think about it….” Dear heart, I can promise you this. NO ONE. And I mean no one, is going to be paying any attention to you and your sweet son on the day he moves into his dorm room. Please know that. They’ll be too busy helping their own kids…and hugging and crying…to be worried about you. And even if they do, what they’ll see is a loving mom letting her son know how much she cares. And what a beautiful thing that is to behold. I’m not going to get into not caring about what others think, it’s a process to get to that point, as I well know. But I will say that getting to that point is FREEING. We have a finite amount of time on this planet, Serena. Trying to not be tied up in knots emotionally is one of the best ways to spend that precious time. Women feel that they have to fix everything for everybody except themselves. Brava to you that you’re at a point in your life when it’s gotten to be (your own well being) a priority. Good luck with the journey. I’ll be glad to see when you get to that point where you matter to yourself as much as those around you. Take care, baby.

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