10 Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood
I like that term much better than "empty nest." Not all women had any birds in the nest at all, not even a papa bird. For all of us, life brings changes as we begin to age, to slow down, to experience more health problems and simply be unable to lift and push as we used to.
I like the idea that we can change directions. As a young adult, I set out to go to school until I was 21, go on an 18-month church mission, and only then consider marriage. The real me, however, liked men. Mm-hmm! Luckily they liked me too. So, the first few weeks of the first semester in college, I met and dated several of the species. Then, wham, one night a young man kissed me gently, and called me princess, and as the old song says,
"I climbed up the door and opened the stairs
I said my pajamas and put on my prayers
I turned off the bed and crawled into the light
And all because you kissed me (kiss) good-night."
(Tony Martin) or
This was not my first kiss, it was just the most magical kiss of all. I quickly changed plans, dropped out of school and got married. Some people thought I was crazy, but young adulthood is like that. We change majors, change locations, change long-term plans, and it's generally acceptable. I gave birth to four wonderful sons and dedicated my life to raising them. And gradually they all grew up and moved out, and I began my first forays in to Second Adulthood.
Second Adulthood is a similar time to young adulthood. It's a time of exploring this new time of life, of trying on roles, accepting some and discarding others, or having them taken away by circumstance, whether a cross-country move or health issues, death of a loved one, or a job loss. Our roles will change, and change yet again. Perhaps we even have a third adulthood.
Maybe this is the equivalent of a male mid-life crisis. As a man's body (including his brain!) begins to change and age, he may begin to reevaluate his family, his values, his hobbies, and his career. My husband discovered his love for teaching in his late forties, after a job loss thrust him into part-time work, and he has restructured much of his life around it--including our cross-country move.
For me, that move was a catapult for exploration, as we moved far away from the children and grandchildren who were central in my life. I have cried many tears over the last few years, but I have also reached out to try some new things and explore my own life and interests. I've gotten my master's degree, and now I am debating the next course of action.
I like the way Levine defines it as a process, and that change does not always have to be dramatic or big. I feel like I can give myself permission to explore this time instead of feeling guilty for not trying harder to get a job right away. My husband thinks I'm bored, but I'm not. I'm processing. I'm arranging our condo in new ways. I am knitting, and doing crosswords puzzles, and doing family history--and occasionally looking at a job lead.