School began this week in Arkansas, the local news running photos of kids big and small on their first day back to school sent in by their proud parents. All the shiny new backpacks and lunchboxes and supplies proudly held up by first time kindergarteners, grinning from ear-to-ear coupled with high schoolers wearing those all too familiar, "Come on, Mom! Enough already!" looks on their faces.
I remember looking out our apartment window when Meghan was just a toddler and watching kids line up for the bus on their first day of school and thinking, "Wow! That seems so far away!"
Twenty years later and two grade schools, a middle school, a junior high, high school and Meghan a college graduate behind us, I find myself wondering what's next and where do I fit in in this new life that's ahead of me?
Joe is taking a gap year this year and spent the summer working at a national park just north of here, his last day being a week ago. He's volunteering for local mountain bike organizations this fall, helping them maintain the trails while he waits to begin a wilderness EMT course this January in Wyoming. He's also going to be helping me around the house, installing much needed new screens for our windows, hauling stuff to the dump and painting my office (well, I can dream).
In general, he'll be looking for a job, volunteering and being our Man Friday until January.
But this is where I'm having trouble. For the past twenty years, I've been responsible for school breakfasts, packing lunches, taking the kids to and from school (Dave and I both agreed that we'd much rather drive the kids to and fro and have that extra car time with them. That was actually my favorite parts of the day and the kids and I had some of our best discussions during those rides.). I made sure I had all the housework and errands finished in time so I could score a prime spot in the after school pick up lines. I listened to the stories, took part in the field trips, served on the PTA, helped out in the classrooms, bought homecoming and prom dresses and attended school concerts and homecoming parades. I shot junior high sports when Joe was in junior high, and that was how I got into sports photography. My life revolved around getting the kids through school healthy, happy and in one piece.
Now that's all done with the coming of this new school year. While I was working my way through the trenches of the past school years, I dreamed of this day, the day that was free from routine and school nights, homework and early risings. Now that it's finally here, I feel myself at loose ends. I have too much freedom, too much time, too much "oh yeah, I don't have to be at the high school this afternoon by 3:45." I know, I could fill all those free hours taking pictures, working on lighting, working on getting Kate Austin Photography up and running and begin hustling for business (yes, I've decided to go into business finally!!), but I don't know quite how to begin.
I feel as if I'm on the cusp of something big lately, bigger than me that will lead me to the next chapter, the next adventure, around the next corner of my life. I'm on the edge of it, my right foot up in the air ready to take that first step, but I don't know where my foot is going to land, and that scares me. I want to take that step, I want to pick up my feet and stride (shuffle) forward, but where will my feet take me? I'm excited, scared, nervous, anxious, willing, curious, exhausted, dreaming of what's ahead, but I also want to cling to the familiar life I just recently left behind, that life where I knew what to expect and what to do, the life that was governed by early morning showers and bedhead, breakfasts eaten before the sun came up and drives to school, sealed with kisses and "See you after school! I love you" 's.
That life is over now, I know. All I need to do now is find the courage to complete that first step, to let my foot fall forward and see where it lands.