As a toddler, I threw fits when my parents had me spend the night at a grandparent’s house. In elementary school I made up excuses to avoid sleepovers. When my parents first dropped me off at college, I sobbed in the back of their minivan before sulking off to my dorm room. It’s safe to say I was a homebody, and moving 1,000 miles away was never part of my foreseen future.
But if we could see the future, life wouldn’t be fun, right? So here I am in Colorado.
For people like me I guess it’s good that leaving the nest comes in stages.
Stage 1: Be sent to a babysitter’s house as a tot and realize your parents didn’t disappear and your house didn’t melt while you were gone.
Stage 2: Go to school eight hours a day for 13 years. Make friends and go to their houses. Spend a weekend in Six Flags with your cousins. No matter how far you go or for how long, you always boomerang back home.
Stage 3: Go to college. For me, college was four hours away. This was part of my plan to become more independent; it made going home less tempting. During college people discover the joys of alcohol, not answering to a curfew, and making decisions for themselves. But they still have the comforts of their own bedroom and a hot meal every time they go home.
Stage 4: Live on a branch. For some, this may be the same as stage two, only school is replaced with work. For others it’s closer to stage three. I’m in the latter group. Except now instead of home being four hours away, it’s 17.
Stage 5: Is this real life? I’m not at this stage, so I’ll have to report back later.
Although these stages helped me in the transition from nest to branch, moving to Colorado was still a big deal.
Once I finally decided that I’d follow my boyfriend to graduate school, I was faced with the task of telling my family. My strategy was to eliminate the element of surprise by dropping hints as early as possible. In every conversation I had with my mom or dad about the future, I’d be sure to mention that I wanted to stay close to wherever the bf ended up. At that time the options were narrowed down to Madison, Seattle and Fort Collins.
Taking the hints, my parents started rooting for Madison. When I broke the news of Fort Collins on a family trip to visit my brother in Chicago, there was silence. Then a hesitant, “So does this mean you’re moving to Colorado?” from my mom.
I nodded in silence, which was thankfully broken by a congratulatory comment from my brother and an “I’m excited for you!” He’s always been good at justifying decisions to my parents, even if those decisions were a sibling’s.
Plans were in place for my move to high altitude. I had the support of my family, but sometimes I felt like they were trying to guilt me out of moving so far away. This wasn’t coming from my parents as much as it was my aunts, uncles and cousins.
I kept reassuring everyone that nothing would change; I was only around for holidays in college and I was still planning on coming home for holidays.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized things would be different. I went home for Christmas. My family just visited me last week, and they’re helping me pay for a flight home in August. But after that I probably won’t see them again until Christmas. And after that I may not see them again until next summer.
Maybe this is a good thing, like when I distanced myself from home during college. Now I’ll be pushed into doing more real person things that I wasn’t expected to do myself while at home. Of course my parents are still trying to help me out every chance they get; they’ve always been incredibly nurturing and supportive and aren’t ready to stop yet.
I guess eventually everyone has to start collecting twigs and grass to build something of their own. Some build in the same tree while others travel to a different forest all together. My gathering has begun, slowly but surely. I still have no idea where I’ll end up, but for now it’s nice to know I’ll always have some twigs flown my way, no matter how far away I am.