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My Own New Beginning

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 It’s June…the temperatures are rising, everything is green, and lush. Kids in school are getting restless, daydreaming of pool dates and beach vacations, ready for the dog days of summer. This time of year is synonymous with advancements, graduations, and the promise of new beginnings.

Spring always makes me a bit reflective; this year, especially, since I graduated high school twenty years ago this month.

It quite honestly feels impossible that it’s been that long, even with all the “life” that’s happened since then. I remember it like it was yesterday…sitting in my seat at the local concert venue (our school too large to host on site), looking around, assuring myself I’d remember the name of every last kid in my class (there were nearly five hundred, by the way, and I definitely don’t). My boyfriend, Kenny, sat with my parents watching on, all the possibility of the future ahead of me, like all my peers surrounding me. Like every high school senior, every year, ever. Looking back on that now, I only have one thought:

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”

If you’d asked me that day how my life was going to shape up, I would have conjured up proverbial stars in my eyes as I rattled on about life being an open book. I loved that I had no real plan; the idea that I could be anything, anywhere, or could be doing any number of things ten years from then. Although, if I’m totally honest, I absolutely assumed that whatever was going to happen, it was going to be BIG. I was going to be an actress, a famous author, a world traveler. I had no plan of how I’d make it so big, but I mean, DUH, of COURSE I was. Oh, the youth is so tragically wasted on the young.
Ten years after high school, and, shocker! I wasn’t a big deal; at least not to the world at large. I married Kenny when we were twenty-five. I can’t say I ever became a huge success in the business world, but I did okay for a while; until I gave birth to my daughter, when I was twenty- eight, and became a stay at home mom. It was a pretty cushy existence if I do say so, myself. Decidedly quiet, and definitely not glamorous, but filled with genuine joy every single day. I’d have those kinds of days forever, if I could get them; but we all know that isn’t how life works for most of us.

I became a widow at the ripe old age of thirty-five, after my sweet Kenny boxed out a lengthy battle with brain cancer.

I’m raising our three beautiful kids without him, and navigating my life alone. This fact used to make me feel bitter; I’d play a few rounds of the “everyone else has…” game, that would make me practically acidic. Until, of course, it dawned on me how “not alone” I was. By now, as my twentieth high school reunion looms, many, if not most, of us have suffered in some way. Losses, divorces, layoffs, illnesses, bankruptcies, infertility…I could go on, but you get the gist. None of us sat in those seats in June of 1999 thinking we’d come up against the things we have.

I’m currently in the midst of my own “new beginning.”

For a short time, in 2016, Kenny was deemed “in remission.” He yearned for a fresh start; years of his struggle having played out in front of his colleagues in NYC, being laid off in the middle of chemo. We often joked about moving; I actually wanted Nashville, because why not? Until he said he wanted to move to Charlotte…like, actually move. If anyone was deserving of some new scenery, it was him. So, we looked, he applied, and we moved, all in what felt like a week (it was probably about eight). Less than three weeks after our arrival, however, his cancer was back, and it was worse, and he was gone four months later. I, needing time, and distance, decided to stay down there a while. This spring, after two whole years on my own with the kids in this beautiful place, I decided it was time to go “home,” to New Jersey. The rest of the move will happen later, but for now, I packed up the SUV as much as I could, with three kids, three pets, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ten hour ride north, I had plenty of time to reminisce about that day all those years ago.

I thought of young, healthy Kenny, young, naive me, all the things that happened, and also, the things that didn’t. It dawned on me, somewhere around mile 305, that in a way, moving back is a lot like a graduation. I’ve spent the last two years learning some undeniably valuable life lessons; how to parent my children totally alone, how to budget time and money, how to practice self care and make time for friendships. I’ve learned to accept that life is a long list of things of things that,“weren’t supposed to be this way,” but that it can still be pretty great. Despite coming up on “mid-life,” I feel like it’s not too late to make a lot of those things happen, even if I’m a bit older, a lot more tired, and a heck of a lot busier.
I’m moving up, literally and figuratively, this time with a plan. I can’t tell you much, but I can tell you this; it’s gonna be BIG! 😉

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