Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others… the video instructed as I made my journey home from dropping my only child at college for the first time. When I was younger that same phrase bothered me. I did not understand the – what I thought- was a selfish concept. Of course I would help my child, my mother, my friend, a neighbor, before helping myself. What was wrong with these skewed instructions, I wondered.
Now, as I sit on the very same porch I did two weeks ago and I think about the future, I finally understand. I have spent the better part of my life giving to others first, sometimes misguided. Altruistic- I like to think so. Folly-sometimes. I would not change the fact that my son came first, but now that he is off on his own for the first time, I can only hope that I gave enough. Enough time, enough instruction, enough love and encouragement to help him understand that you have to love yourself first. That people are basically good if you give them the chance and if you find they are not, move on. But he is finding his own way now. I have no control-- not that I ever really did, and he will rise and fall on his own merits.
But, what of me now? I still have family obligations to tend to, a life that requires my participation in the everyday and I will always be his mother, but instead of feeling desolate and alone in my now empty nest, I feel a sense of freedom I have not known in many years. ‘It’s my turn,’ is my mantra for 2013.
I have plans. Big plans, crazy plans, plans that will make friends and family shake their heads and say; you can’t, you shouldn't, are you crazy? And for the first time in my life, I don’t care. I know what I want and I intend on making all my dreams come true. It won’t be easy. I will sometimes lean too heavily on the support and encouragement of those who want the best for me. I am bound to disappoint those who have grown accustomed to me putting others first and I am sure to make some bad decisions along the way, but it that is life, in all its wondrous, messy glory. New adventures are waiting, so I am putting my own oxygen mask on first and heading for the sky.