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The Second Half

Don’t laugh. I think I’m having a mid-life crisis or maybe a self-identity crisis. Whatever. I just know my head is all *&$#ed up.

Before now, I lived my life according to a disciplined rhythm. Kids, work, school, shower when I have time, wash dishes between loads of laundry, feed dogs, rinse, repeat. Some would call this chaotic, but for me it was just life as I’d always known it. And even with all of its flaws, and there were many, I loved that life with all of my being. I knew exactly who I was, and how important I was.

But now, now I just feel lost. Change can do that to you, make you feel displaced, uncertain.

When the kids were younger- including my younger brother who lived with us- we each had assigned kitchen seats, but when we ate out it was every man for himself. The kids always fought over who got to sit beside me. Sometimes there was shoving and tears and I would have to negotiate deals to keep the peace. (“Okay, the girls will sit next to me for dinner, but we’ll get dessert somewhere else and then the boys will sit with me. Deal?”)  The memory of my kids treating me as a prize worth fighting for is a marker in time when their lives were tightly intertwined with mine.

But eventually kids grow up.

With high school graduation behind them, and following their older brothers’ leads, my two youngest children are moving out in August. Then it’ll just be me, a bunch of rescue dogs, and a curmudgeon Asian lady upstairs (yes, yes, my aunty). No daily family dinners, the wipe board menu gathers dust above my refrigerator, and there’s  no need for assigned seating. I can sit anywhere I want. But the kitchen table that once barely fit a bustling family of eight feels too big for me now.

It feels like only yesterday I had a crash course in grappling with understanding who I was after being someone’s wife for 16 years and suddenly not. I got over that, eventually. But this, this seems bigger, the pain much deeper. I mean, after 27 years of parenting, who am I now if I’m no longer a mom?

People tell me, “It’s your time now, Maria. Do what you want – travel, eat out, date.” But that concept of taking care of just me, eating alone at the restaurant of my choice, and traveling to places only interesting to me, that’s all foreign to me. I’m not a saint, I’ve just never done that before, put myself first.

As a woman, a mother, and that once upon a time damaged girl who didn’t learn her self-worth until well into adulthood, putting myself first doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to put a lot of thought into what a life like that is supposed to look like and even then when I envision myself doing it, I feel my brows furrow and my body retreat, as if to say, “I couldn’t do that. That’s too weird.”

When my kids were young, I spent hours just watching them, sleep, eat, play, run around the house like maniacs. I adored them and felt such pride in simple moments like that. I gave them life and in turn they gave my life clarity and a deeper sense of purpose. No doubt those kids are the foundation to the first half of my life, my world.

As the kids got older and started spending more time away from home, creating lives outside of mine, I found myself staring at pictures of them on my phone, admiring them through social media’s lenses and the family pictures we took at birthday dinners. I felt a different pride, at their growth, their beauty, their independence, and the authenticity behind their smiles. I knew then life was changing, and faster than I wanted.

But I knew this day was coming. I tried to prepare for it. I went back to school, got my undergrad, then my law degree, all so I would have something of my own, something I could lean into when it was time to let the kids go. And in theory it sounded so perfect in my head, but in practice not so much. Now I have to learn how to do two new big things at the same time – live like a single person and learn how to lawyer. It’s quite the ride right now.

It feels as though I’m grieving, the end of an era, the end of being a mother as I’ve only ever known, and a version of myself I’ve since outgrown. The first half of my life is over and I’m feeling the pressure to figure out what I want the second half of my life to look like. And no lie, the struggle is real. It’s hard to grow, to let go of who you once were, especially when you feel like you just learned to appreciate that version of yourself. And now the universe is telling me I have to reinvent myself? Seriously?

I should clarify that I’m not so foolish as to believe this place I’m standing is anything less than a blessing. I know it is. Raised 4 good kids – check. Got my law degree and finally passed the bar – check. Survived the first 40 years of life’s obstacles without losing my sh*t – check check. I did good. But still, endings are often as sad as they are joyful and new beginnings scary as they are exciting. And that’s where I am now, standing at the halfway point in my life, trying to convince myself to let go of my yesterdays long enough to see the horizon holding my tomorrows.

And that’s a little bit of terrifying. I have to navigate this second half alone and find a way to be comfortable with that. I have to learn a new normal, develop a new rhythm, absent kids or a husband. I already know it’s going to be a bumpy road, with plenty of trial and error moments, and epic fails. Beginnings are full of those. I have a lot to do, a lot to learn. I don’t feel ready, I don’t. But I’ve come so far, I’ve worked so hard. It’s never really been my style to let fear paralyze me, although for the first time in a long time it is so tempting. I have to believe that the next half of my life is going to be even better than the first. I have to trust this process of growing and evolving. I’m not lost, I can’t be, this is just transition. I have to keep moving, forward, always forward, never ever back…

Okay, okay. Deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. I’m going to try and let go now…

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. James bustos
    June 12, 2019 at 7:07 PM

    Mar! All your accomplishments in life so out weigh your hardships! I’ve seen your grow from a party hardy fly ass woman to a proud beautiful mother to a single and ready to mingle again lawyer! You have so much upside it’s freaking ridiculous! The 2nd have of your life will be another joy! Your maturity and your young heartedness will bring everything into perspective so that you will be able to life’s joys and struggles with a grain of salt! You’re are blessed my old friend! Take care and God bless! Huggs and kisses to you “Jamison”

  2. Angela Alvarado
    June 14, 2019 at 5:26 PM

    I have no doubt this new journey will be anything less than spectacular and successful. Different – yes but that much richer – with new lessons learned and a whole new career. I’m a firm believer there are no coincidences – this my dear friend – is part of the plan for this phase of your life. You are an amazing woman – can’t wait to see where the road takes you.

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