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Sentimentality is a reminder to be mindful

I’ve found myself feeling rather sentimental this week, for many reasons, and the topic of mindfulness and staying in the moment and enjoying everything life is bringing into your life has been top of mind for me. Not only is there lot going on in my life, a lot of wonderful things, and it seems like everyone around me has something going on and things are moving quickly.

So let’s break this down.

For me, I have this wonderful new business, with so many new things almost ready to release that I can’t wait to share with you, my first book coming out soon and again, it’s full of great information and my personal stories that I know will have a positive, helpful effect on many, and I graduate with my degree within just a few weeks. I honestly can’t believe the blessings I have received in my life as of late and am thankful and grateful for everything and everyone who has supported and encouraged me along the way, as well as all the new friends I have made.

My eldest niece is graduating from high school next month. That, my itself is emotional for me, let alone for my sister and brother-in-law. This girl is amazing - 3rd in her class, she speaks multiple languages and is studying more, is a prolific writer, a taekwondo instructor and is, I believe, a 2nd dan black belt, will be attending Ohio University this fall under partial scholarship in their honors program with a double major - earning everything she worked so hard for over the past few years. I may only be the aunt who lives clear across country, but I couldn’t be more proud of this girl.

But this takes me back a few years to when my son graduated high school. And you know how easy it is for a parent to get all mushy and nostalgic. His graduation was a little less traditional, which much less fanfare, but it still makes me tear up. The summer before son’s senior year, we went to the photo studio for him to take his senior photos. He did ask me to wait outside and he would handle it himself, which was fine, but I never told him I started to cry in the car - not because I was sad I couldn’t go in, I was actually proud that he wanted to do it by himself, but that I started to feel the beginning of the end of being “mommy.” How many other moms and dads out there can relate to that? I know I’m not alone in this, I certainly won’t be the last and although I didn’t feel something uniquely special to just me, it didn’t make it any less intense.

Just after the start of his school year, he comes home one day more frustrated than usual with the system, the classes, the teachers - and I just chalked it up to normal teenage stuff, angst, senior-itis, normal kid stuff. But then he kept showing me papers sent home from his teachers and school with errors, unclear instructions, and useless assignments.

And don’t misunderstand me, this is not an attack on all teachers or his school, but I have to admit it was kind of ridiculous. He had declined the honors classes for years - he scored high on all the standardized tests, but he didn’t have the goal of attending university - in fact, he wanted to pursue acting. I know the stereotypical response from parents is probably one of panic at this news, we all know how difficult and cutthroat and competitive that industry is, and we all worry about our kids and how they can support themselves and be happy - but this is a kid who had this dream since he was very little. And I’d seen him in action - he’s good. And that’s not just “mom” being supportive - I’d sit in the audience at school and hear others around me comment on the talent of “that kid.” And it was my kid. He was in a high school drama competition and won best actor. Who am I to tell him to not chase it?

Besides that, I think everyone should pursue what makes their life light up and not worry about what others think or say. And not just because you’re young, it’s that life is too short to wait. and you shouldn’t waste it doing what you don’t want to do. I spent too many years ignoring my dreams and desires and I’d never wish that on anyone else.

So, back to my son…I don’t recall how he learned about it, but he came home one day with information on something called the California High School Proficiency Exam, or CHSPE, and that if passed it was considered the same as a regular diploma - and that he wanted to maybe take it and graduate early. I looked at him and told him to look into it and show me proof that it was the same as a diploma and we’d talk.

That night - literally as soon as he could - he showed me the website and we spent time looking at all the information and it all checked out. The test was a month away, the end of October. He asked if he could enroll and said the worst case would be that he wouldn’t pass and would just finish the year and graduate with his class in June. How could I argue with that?

So he signed up and bought the study guide. The day of the test came, and I drove him to the site, took a book and camped out because we were told to expect about 2 hours - and just under 90 minutes later he walked out, got in the car, and said we’d get the results in late November. So we played the waiting game.

Now, during this time, I had also decided to sell my condo. I had gotten it in my divorce, and I was kind of tired of looking at it, and prices were high again, and he was graduating soon, so I thought I’d test the market and see what happened. We listed on a Thursday in September, had an open house that weekend, and I accepted an offer the following Wednesday. Escrow was to close in late November. It was going to be a very tense two months.

The Thursday before Thanksgiving week (his school closed for the whole week of the holiday), I was out of town for business, and he called - with the news that he passed the test! He was emotional, he was excited - and so was I! It was an amazing accomplishment and I was so proud of him as he did it all himself.

Then I told him he still had to go to school, which he didn’t care, he was happy to go, knowing it was his last few days.

The point of this whole story is this - the last step in the process was meeting with the school counselor, so we went that Monday or Tuesday after Thanksgiving (I don’t remember which), gave her the information that my son received via email, she signed it and that was it. He was graduated. No fanfare, no other recognition, just a “thank you for coming in” and we were done. He was invited back to walk in the June ceremony, but he was already disconnected and genuinely had no interest. If I had forced him to participate, it would have been simply for my benefit, not for his, and I respected that. He was 18, he was taking acting classes, and I didn’t think it was right to push.

Now he’s 21, living in another state, working full-time and supporting himself, teaching himself how to play and write music, just got a call-back for an audition… and I can’t help but miss when he was a toddler and wanted nothing more than to crawl up into my lap and watch Bob the Builder.

So attending my niece’s upcoming graduation brought back all those emotions in a flood and I was kind of a mess the last day or two. But I rode the wave, I let the emotions flow, and I am so thankful for all the time I had with my son and that I spent as much time as I did with him, although it will never have been enough.

I’ve seen a note on social media multiple times this week, it says “you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory” … and until you have the opportunity to look back, you don’t get it at the time. I also remember one of my favorite quotes from the TV show The Office, said by character Andy Bernard - “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” I guess we need to just remember that whatever we’re dealing with, today, no matter how mundane, frustrating or even difficult, it’s not permanent and in some cases, there’s a pretty good chance someday you’ll miss it.

So as you’re moving through your day, week, year, or even hour, you don’t know which parts you’re going to miss. No one does. Parents don’t realize that whatever they’re struggling with - mixed up sleep patterns, exhausting meals, clingy toddlers, weaning…someday you’ll long for those days. I certainly remember how I felt, how stretched I was, but I still miss them.

On top of all this, my best friend, my rock, is moving out of state at the end of next month - the same weekend my niece graduates. Now this isn’t the first time, but still, lots of emotions going on. This opportunity for her and her husband is one they could not turn down, and they bought this amazing house for like ¼ of the cost of the same house here in California, and I truly am excited for them. But I allowed myself to wallow in my feelings for a moment, and know they’re going to come back that weekend, and I’m ok with that. My joy far outweighs my sorrow and I’m looking forward to another reason to travel. I’ve never been where she’s moving, so it’ll be another adventure for me.

I do, however, have a reward coming. While my sister and niece are on her graduation trip, my younger niece is coming home with me for a week and I am SOOOOOO excited!

So please, stay in the moment, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, because you won’t know until much later just how important that moment will be to you. That’s why I allowed myself to feel the emotions I was these past few days, so they’re ingrained into my memory. A year from now and even further out, I hope they bring me as much joy as the memories I have now do.

Stay mindful. Stay in the minute. And notice everything.

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