The term Empty Nest Syndrome was something I was quite unaware of as a condition. I knew of people entering retirement and struggling to come to terms with life changes. This was not anything for me to worry about. I officially came out of a structured employment fourteen years ago, my house, my children and my lifestyle in Spain kept me occupied and busy. Retirement was not on any agenda I knew about as it conjured up images of white haired ladies waiting for God. Empty nest syndrome should not be confused with retirement. The condition is what you find yourself in when you are no longer needed daily by your family and there is only you to worry about. For the positive amongst us we can re name it ME time and although we have found ourselves dreaming of the time when it arrives, I can only say it can throw you a bit sideways as you struggle to adjust when it does.
This all happened a little too quick and unexpectedly for my liking when my youngest daughter convinced me, England was the desired place to complete her studies. Her father had found a military school and the opportunities were convincing enough to see it would be wrong to hold her back. My eldest son was living in Barcelona and my middle son was already studying in London with the chance to go on to New York. Was my job over now, I had brought up my children to fly. So, I left my precious daughter in the UK to live with her father, in favour of better education, well that was the idea. What I did not realise however was how redundant I would feel. So, what do you do when you find yourself alone? No children to look after and a big empty property that I had spent years working towards as if it was a prize. Now it is just a place to hold memories. Maybe it is time to sell and downsize. Shuddering at this momentary thought, I shoved it back on a dusty shelf in my mind.
Saying goodbye to my daughter in Gatwick Airport on a cold January morning, I had no dreams of living back in the UK. Returning to my big empty house in Spain lodged with my daughters two cats, the walls eerily echoing sounds of children’s high-pitched voices, frantic sleepovers and drama rehearsals in front of our burning log fire, outside, our swimming pool, tranquil and silent of splashing legs and arms clambering over lilos. All representing a lifestyle we had all dreamed about and worked towards. This beautiful home surrounded by mountains and vineyards, now miserably thinking it has been abandoned by my family. Huh! I was sure they would miss me and long for home, How could they not? So, I waited………………….and waited.
My children had all flown the nest! and I was totally unprepared and not impressed.
I had spent years encouraging my children to be independent, to clasp their own passions for life in their own hands, to seek and find glory in success. But where was I fitting into this plan. Feeling sorry for myself I spent the next few weeks huddled on my sofa, watching episode after episode of Emmerdale Farm, trying to rationalise my reason for this slouching which took some imagination, believe me. Again, that shuddering thought came back. Start downsizing, sell the family home and buy a nice one bedroomed apartment, one you can clean in a day. Most people have sense, Right? they make it easy. Why could I not see this?
The only images in my head were seeing myself descending on my children at Xmas, I was hearing tiresome woes of “who is having Mother this year” I could also hear my parent’s voices saying those same words about my grandmother. I saw myself worrying about where I would go if I became old and infirm and remembering my mother in law announcing when she was my age that she wanted to downsize and buy a bungalow because one day she would not be able to climb stairs. How we had laughed at this nonsense. How was it possible I had reached this point and stupidly thinking myself into becoming an old person, after all, I had only just ceased being an active parent. Here I found myself, lost, lonely, unloved and waiting for the cats to come home so I could talk to someone.
Stop! “You are only 60” that is no age. as I wondered how many years I had left in me for some recklessness. There was no one in my life to make decisions for me thankfully. The loud voice in my head started some straight talking and I contemplated that a major lifestyle re-think was on the cards and decisions were to be made. It was then I decided if my kids could fly the nest then so could I. They had youth on their side but I held all the assets. I was not prepared to let go of everything I had worked for, not yet. So, I made the decision to rent my beautiful home and hand it over to someone else to look after for a short while. In exchange for rent, I worked out I would have enough money to make myself homeless, to fund my trip away from the nest and therefore it was now my time to dip my toes into solo travel and become a Lifestyle Traveller. With each and every single step I took, I was to become more confident and free as a bird as I made my way from the beautiful Jalon Valley in the Costa Blanca, first stop Gaudi’s Barcelona.