I didn’t realize when I pulled out of my driveway last Saturday to take Luke to Stanford that the trip up I5 was going to be a tour of the last 25 years of my life. Given that I didn’t let it sink in until maybe 24 hours before that he was actually going to make it to campus, to an actual college dorm room, with a roommate, I certainly didn’t think about how I felt about getting him there. This hasn’t exactly been your typical college send off, so different than taking Lauren last year. The experience was a beautiful win all the way around though, from the conversation and excitement in the car, the 80’s music that Luke has on his Spotify, to the way my mind traveled down memory lane without any tears, because I felt such gratitude for the life that I have experienced, the things it has produced, the strength I have gained through the challenges, and for the anticipation of what is yet to come. So many exits along that vast expanse of California mean something to me. They are the experiences and relationships that make me who I am…connected and yet different than anyone else. I was born to grow and be transplanted in many different soils so I could learn to thrive in all of them…I wouldn’t trade country music, beach volleyball, or the opportunities all of these places have provided for my kids for any other path.
People often comment that the journey up I5 is boring, that vast, flat expanse of unpopulated land does tend to stretch on for awhile, but it takes me back to simpler times. Getting mountain bikes or trucks stuck in the sticky clay mud, kitchens where dinner was being prepared but the cook still had to haul water in from an outside well to fill the tank in the house, and wondering if cotton would be knee high by the 4th of July. No joke, that was 1997 for me, and just a short decade later, I had been to DC, London, and Paris, dined in some of the world’s finest restaurants, and brought four kids into the world. Life changes, but if we pay attention, the things we want to bring with us become part of our own soil - the dirt under our feet that grounds us.
Arriving at Stanford with Luke, I realized it had been 24 years to the month that we moved in to married student housing. It felt like some crazy figment of my imagination, I was 22 years old and six months out of college. In all these years, I never internalized any thought that I would have a child that went to school there. I can count the number of times I checked his grades online in high school on one hand, this journey is his own, just like mine has been. It’s not for lack of deep care, but for the belief that we are meant to expose and guide them, not attempt to control their path. I am of course so proud of where he arrived last Saturday, and although I’m sure he thinks he gets lots of mom advice from me, it’s his efforts that got him to this place. I can picture the moments of his volleyball career, the five set matches and game points where his back was up against the wall, that helped him achieve his dream of wearing a Stanford uniform. The optimist in me tells me those days are not over, as hard as Stanford is trying to make them be. The words run through my head daily:
“The path will appear.”
I’m blessed by so many amazing friendships that support and ground me, and help me connect my thoughts. After checking Luke into his dorm, Kate and I made our way to Santa Cruz and one of them. Another relationship born on that I5 corridor over 20 years ago. Sarah and I were the only two women our age working on the westside, because of course at that time, even women five years older seemed light years away from where we were, but even by that measure, there still weren’t many of us. Sarah flies planes, owns her own business, and bakes her own sourdough bread…she has serious skills in all arenas. Over the years we have been to Normandy, Prague, Paris, and London, and dined at Denny’s at 5am for the free birthday breakfast. Now eight kids between us that we have hauled from two year old preschool all the way to college, my circle was complete when Kate and I stopped at Cal Poly on the way home Sunday to take her oldest to lunch. The two little boys that used to count trucks on the freeway on the way to Miss Paige’s are in college. And sitting on that patio at Firestone Grill, on Sunday, it could have been 1995, when my favorite tri-tip sandwich restaurant first opened and I lived down the street, I didn’t feel as far away as I am from being the student instead of the mom buying lunch.
COVID life has brought me closer to phone conversations than I have been since I was 15. There is something about isolation that makes hearing people’s voices so much better than texting. So after we got home, I digested the contents of my weekend with another deep connection, my friend Chrissy, who is simply the most passionate, devoted, and talented human, mom, writer and friend, (Check out her amazing blog here) she put some brilliant words on my swirling nostalgic thoughts.
“Nostalgia is like a warm blanket you wrap yourself in for the journey ahead, instead of a place you long to return to.”
That was an instant yes for me…but it hasn’t always been that way. So I started thinking about what has helped me make that shift in my life, where I can see the beauty in the past, but not long for it and feel like the best days are behind me. Chrissy admitted it is something she struggles with as her beautiful boys get older, need her less, and time does its thing marching on. We have to tread gently on that spot when we realize that life, no matter how hard we try, doesn’t make Uturns. So what do we do to keep growing, evolving, and effect change for ourselves that pays forward to the next generation? Here are a few of my realizations:
Life doesn’t make ‘Uturns’, but we can choose to make ‘Youturns’. With age, we realize that the good things we do for ourselves pay in dividends to the people around us. It takes a healthy amount of self awareness, because I’m not talking about the “do what makes you happy” mentality that indulges our every whim, but the grounded wisdom of saying no to some things, that may even appear selfish to some people, to gain the time and peace we need to create the life and legacy that we want to leave. Those choices are always rooted in a process that values the journey over the destination and trusts that the little ways we invest in ourselves each day will create sustained energy for us and the world at large.
Be invigorated by the pursuit of longevity. I’m inspired to make choices to get the best quality and most years out of my life. That’s why sleep and recovery have become so important to me, and honoring lifelong relationships and building new ones that continue to be deep and connected. It’s refreshing and freeing to be in a place in life where exposing the real you comes naturally, and you have the confidence to let the chips fall where they may. No one wants to believe that their best days are behind them. I love finding ways to feel better…our bodies ask for a little more care and connection than they did when we were younger, but cultivating a deeper understanding for how they work, and how to maximize our days is invigorating, even if it means less happy hour and more CBD.
Believe wholeheartedly in the potential and expansiveness of what is to come and the incredible gift of what we accomplish can be for others. There is a shift that happens at midlife, it’s illustrated brilliantly in David Brooks’s book, The Second Mountain, where we see that true joy is an experience of connection and a deeper understanding of our values. When we get a firm grasp on this, the playing field of life expands, we have little need to control anything, and develop a deep confidence to follow our own path…even when it looks different than anyone else’s. In short, we get to embrace the art of not fitting in and be ok with it!
My life has been influenced by so many arrivals and departures along the I5 and 101 corridor. There isn’t a place in the world that has the unique beauty that this state holds. True success in life happens when you understand where your roots are planted, and have the ability to flourish even when a transplant occurs…and knowing that even though life doesn’t make ‘Uturns’, we can master the art of ‘Youturns’. Once again, I find myself grateful for the heavy clay that taught me what is important to hold on to, and the light and airy sand that has shown me how to let go.
Proud of you Luke Turner. You have strong roots too. Looking forward to seeing where you decide to grow from here.
With love & optimism,
Here’s my choice for song of the week…there were a few, I’ve spent a lot of time in cars and planes this last week listening!