I’ve been thinking about this photo lately. It’s my 95-year-old Mema, her daughter (my Mom) and me this past summer. We’re at a benefit at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando. The Florida Bar Foundation was honoring my Mom’s work with Teen Courts nationwide.
My Mom is Mema’s youngest. She had her when she was about 30. I’m my Mom’s youngest; she had me when she was 24. My Mom and I spend a lot of time together since I moved to Switzerland… she’s here months of every year. She is by far my favorite travel companion. No one else eats anywhere near enough. This is ironic; she is tiny. They make me look so tall! (I am 5’4″.)
I’ve been thinking about what we have in common and what’s different about our lives.
In a recent conversation with my Mema she said, “I wish I knew how long I had left so I cold make more plans. Right now I can’t plan past this trip to Vegas.”
Chalk that up to something we have in common: the Adventurer Gene.
Mema also loves to dance and have a good time; that we have in common, too.
Our lives have been so different, though. In some ways I think her 90s are Mema’s best decade. She’s doing pretty much anything she wants. No ailing husband to care for (God rest their souls), no kids to raise, she reads everything she can get her hands on and emails and watches tv and eats whatever and whenever she wants. She has three suitors and runs an alterations business out of her apartment. She’s a gifted painter.
“I started drinking caffeinated coffee after your visit,” she told me.
“Do you sleep?”
“Well, no. Not so much. Some nights I just sing all night long… you know, all the songs I want to perform.”
That’s something Mema and I have in common: the singing and performance gene. It skipped a generation.
What’s interesting to note, though, and points to what I’d like to see XpatAdventures become, is this: Mema is breaking trail now, calling the shots, charting her own course in her 90s and it’s really the first time she’s had the means and luxury to do so alone.
My Mom needed to go find her way, her path, her route when I left home and she was in her early 40s (God bless my Dad who said to her, “I can’t do it for you, you have to go find your own thing.”) She found Teen Court and has built them across the United States, serving thousands of kids and families in need.
Me? I’ve been calling my own shots my whole life. In my twenties I guess I was still trying to do things Right, be a Good Girl, follow the normal, acceptable route. Then things happened.
I believe there comes a time when each of us realizes life as we planned it is not going to turn out. Some come to it through tragedy, others through disappointment, still others when the upward trajectory just has nowhere left to go.
We’re each left wondering, “What now?” and have an opportunity to chart an authentic, fulfilling course for ourselves.
That’s what I’d like XpatAdventures to be about. It doesn’t have to mean you’re single like me (or that I’ll stay single forever). It doesn’t have to mean you have kids or not, or a high-paying career or not, or a calling you want to chuck everything for.
It’s about: in this day and age each one of us, no matter what, will likely reach a day when it’s time to carve our own, unique, authentic course. Maybe your husband tells you you need to do it for yourself; maybe you realize if you don’t you’re going to go nuts, or you will have reached the end and never done the thing your heart longed for.
The question is the same. I’d like to help each of us answer it: