What I Did on My Summer Vacation continues with Tish sharing how she closed the chapter on one season of motherhood, but opened an entirely new chapter to her future. (Missed our other posts? Read how Coach Amanda and Michelle San Antonio spent their summers!)

When the daughter of a Dear Running Friend (DRF)* was 18 and going to college, my own girlchik was 11-ish. I was in the thick of divorced mom-hood with a full-time job outside the home and no relatives within 250 miles. (Daughter’s dad lived a half hour away but wasn’t so involved in parenting the early years.)

I was a terrible, unempathetic friend.

“When my daughter goes to college,” I said to DRF, “I am NOT going to be sad!”

daughter at college

Daughter Nina starts college at Barnard this fall!

Well. On Sunday, daughter Nina’s dad and I are dropping her at Barnard College. (My alma mater, as it happens, though it was a late comer to her wish list and she determined its merits on her own.)

I am not sad. To borrow the language of a social worker church friend who is facing her own empty nest, I am bereft.

The true test of a Dear Running Friend is if they listen to your ridiculous pronouncements and decide to tolerate you anyway. (At least for the run.)

To all the moms with small children at home, I am NOT going to say, “It goes by in the blink of an eye!” No it doesn’t. The days are long, and the years are long. The marathon of raising Nina was epic and intense—and probably the best years of our lives together. And like at the end of 26.2 miles, I am exhausted.

[Important note: I realize I am a person of extreme privilege, with a (mostly) steady income and no imminent threat of losing roof over head, food on table, running shoes on feet. Many mothers have much harder lives. I bow to them.]

But this is not just a sad story.

I sold the Little House in New Jersey that Nina and I had shared (with two dogs) for 11+ years.

It’s “both/and.” Meaning more than one thing can be true at a time, which I learned about from Rev. Alison Miller, my former NJ minister who moved in August to Oregon to serve as senior minister at First Unitarian Portland. SBS, I’m coming to visit!

As sad as I am to close the chapter on my daughter’s early years, I am beyond excited to watch her college journey.

Barnard has grown and evolved so much since I went there—literally, figuratively; more dorms, a more robust and cohesive academic track—Nina will have a much richer experience.

That’s me at Barnard with my 1980s-era outfit and hair.

And maybe it was my daughter’s looking around at and applying to colleges that inspired me to look around and apply to a new future too.

Because guess what? I moved from New Jersey back to my home state of Georgia, which I left many years ago to go to Barnard. Kind of like a reverse college migration.

My boyfriend, Rick, took a job in Savannah a few years ago. And why just pull up my NJ stakes and move in with him when I could add to the disruption and upheaval of relocation and cohabitation and distance-from-daughter by taking on a demanding new job at the same time? I’m joining the Writing department at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I’m going to college too!

Here we go! While Nina studies chemistry and economics at Barnard, I’ll be teaching in the Writing Department of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Maybe it’s just an elaborate distraction ploy. Maybe creating syllabi, engaging students, grading papers will keep me too preoccupied to feel too sorry for myself. Maybe?

There are easier races to run, but here we go! Off to college(s). Wish us luck.

If you’re an empty nester, please tell me how you coped!