Living Leadership

Living Leadership

Contending with life passages

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Julie Thorson
Julie Thorson

With each life passage we gain more perspective and experience. For that reason alone we should learn from those who are older than us. I have never been more aware of that than this week.

Often in this blog, I offer tips on leadership that I have discovered on my personal leadership journey. For this writing I am at a loss, but trying to appreciate the idea that I'm in the middle of it and someday I may be able to offer advice to people experiencing the same transition.

For many of life's passages we have an idea of what to expect — marriage, having children, retirement, funerals and so on. One transition that we don't hear a ton about ... sending your kids to college. This week we drop off our oldest at Iowa State University. It's only an hour away, but it feels like it's across the country. It's not so much about where she's going to school but the fact that she will be living somewhere other than our home.

I've heard all the advice: She's ready, she's only an hour away, this is why you raise them to leave, it's a natural part of life, etc. All the practical advice that should make sense and make the whole move easy. However, it's anything but easy.

In fact, “easy” may be the very last word I would ever use to describe this week. It made me think of growing older and experiencing yet another life passage. It also made me think of the question many of us ask (it just seems we ask it more often the older we get): “Have I done enough?”

There are so many things now that we are down to the final hours I want to say. I've tried to squeeze so much into these last few days to hold on a little longer, a little tighter. I want to offer another meaningful lesson in hopes of preparing her for being on her own. I want to give her all the tools she will need to be a successful contributor in life. I want her to know she's loved unconditionally and no matter what happens in her future we are so proud of her. All the things I know she knows but I want to imprint so she never forgets.

It's such an exciting time for her, to realize who she is and her own potential, but I'm also very excited to see this happen for her. I'm looking forward to continuing to walk alongside her even though I'm not physically there. Both of my children remind me to stop worrying. (“Mom, I'm fine.”) One lesson I've learned from my mom, however, is you never stop worrying, regardless of how old you are as a parent. Worry is a part of the job description that never goes away.

There is also a very selfish part to this life passage. Being comfortable with the age in which we are moving a child to college is tough. It's here, there's no turning back but the idea or thought of it seems, well, goofy.

Now there's a descriptive word for you. I think about all the other life passages to come and this one just feels “off.” I am getting more and more comfortable with it, as I know we all do growing older and learning to accept the gifts we are given at each age.

For 18 years, being a parent has meant one thing. Now this week it seems things have changed in a blink of an eye. Knowing how to navigate that as a parent is overwhelming. Others seem to do it so gracefully, but finding the way is a challenge. 

This life passage is emotional. I can list all the reasons why and logically come up with responses. But for this week, I'm just going to let it be. 

I will, however, have a deeper appreciation for others as they live through their own life passages, recognizing we all approach them differently.

We each are starting new chapters at different points in our lives. This makes our stories unique and individual, yet common. And in a time of uncertainty these similar experiences tie us all together.

Julie Thorson's “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a continuing care retirement community in Fort Dodge, IA, that earned the Governor's Award for Quality under her, Thorson is a coach's daughter at heart. She is a former part-time nursing home social worker who quickly ascended the leadership ranks. Now a licensed nursing home administrator, she has been a participant in LeadingAge's Leadership Academy and LeadingAge Iowa's Mentor of the Year. 

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