Mother’s Day will never not be emotional for me. I am continuously torn between celebrating the wonderful women in my life who made me who I am today – not just Mom, but both my grandmas and Joyce, my childhood neighbor, babysitter, and essentially adopted grandmother – and struggling with my own path to motherhood. All those women helped shape me morally, spiritually, and intellectually.
Mom, of course, continues to do so. I still crave her advice. I am so grateful for her friendship; her example, not only as a mother, but as a teacher, business woman, Christian; and her unconditional love. All of it. Somewhere along the path to adulthood, she also became my best friend.
In the past, I dreaded Mother’s Day. Working retail in my 20s, strangers wishing me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” broke my heart and left me feeling empty. They all meant well. That’s the problem: One never knows who is struggling with infertility, pregnancy, strained relationships, loss, etc. For the longest time, I felt the same way at church on Mother’s Day, until I no longer did. A simple acknowledgement that some struggle with a whole variety of issues relating to motherhood made all the difference. Watching others grieve and acknowledge the loss of their own mothers made me realize that I am far from alone.
If I am completely honest with myself, recent events have made me question whether I do want to adopt, my only path to motherhood. In fact, it is part of the reason why I have been so silent here lately. Fortunately, my parents support me no matter what I decide, but what I wouldn’t give to be able to talk to my grandmas and Joyce right now. I could use their advice and wisdom now more than ever. All three would have something to say – all different – and force me to think of something I had overlooked.
If I do decide not to adopt, the hardest part will be having to change my perception of myself. I do not remember just how young I was at the time, but the first thing I remember wanting out of life is to be a mother. Fortunately, that is the beautiful thing about all of this. If I decide not to adopt, in many ways, I am still a mother. I have a great relationship with my nephews and niece. Spending time with my niece the other evening, she randomly told me that she wanted to come spend the night at my house. It didn’t work out that evening, but a sleepover is in the works once school is out. I want to be that aunt. My niblings are finally reaching the ages where I can be that aunt.
As a teacher, I influence children every day. I truly care for all my students, even if I am just their substitute teacher for a day or two. It doesn’t matter. So many students do not have much support at home. As a teacher, I can put my maternal instincts to good use. I can be the teacher that cheers them on at school. I know for a fact that I have already made a difference. I just need to step it up as I truly start my teaching career.
I may yet decide to adopt, but I need to give myself time and space to make that decision. I finally concluded that it isn’t the end of the world if I do not. When and if I do decide to adopt, I can say with certainty that I have thought of all possibilities and outcomes. If it is meant to be, I know that my son or daughter is out there waiting for me.
Nothing compares to spring in Omer. In the middle of all the mud, daily extreme temperature swings, the rain and snow, not to mention the annual Sucker run, my family and I start gearing up for the busy summer ahead. The canoe livery will always be a part of my life, and as my parents prepare to retire, I can say I am finally starting to make it my own. Our Facebook pages, website, and our new online reservation system all represent years of hard work on my part. Slowly my brother and I are taking on more and more responsibility.
This year, for many personal reasons, I am looking forward to this summer. For the first time in a long time, I have a clearer vision of what I need to do. Writing will take its place alongside all my canoe livery responsibilities. In the meantime, I am working as a long-term substitute teacher until the end of the school year. Last week I transitioned from subbing in a different classroom every day to taking on the responsibility of finishing out the school year in a 4th grade classroom. Just as I eased into a routine with my writing, I need to readjust. In June, I will have to do it again. Please stay with me as I try to figure out a good schedule here.
On a personal level, it has taken me years to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be happy unless education (teaching), business (the canoe livery), and writing were a part of my life. I need all three. When I received my teacher certification testing results for the business, management, and technology subject area, I felt anger. It clearly showed I should have never doubted myself when it comes to my business education. Of the three tests I took for my teaching certificate, I scored highest on the business exam. All areas of the test.
Yet, I did doubt myself when my business career hit a brick wall in 2005. So many things happened at a result that I took a good long look at what I truly wanted to do with my life. Thanks to that reevaluation of my career, I eventually earned my teaching certificate and my general writing certificate. Now, after all these years, I work every day making it all fit together. I simply ask that you stay with me. I will figure this out.
More than anything, I am proud of the family business my grandparents and parents built over the years. This summer represents 60 years in business. I grew up working not only with my parents, but my grandparents as well – especially Grandma Reid (Dad’s mom, pictured above). She, and my parents, taught me so much about business, customer service, and hard work growing up. Several years ago now, I asked Grandma what Grandpa Russell (Dad’s father, who started the canoe livery and passed away decades ago) would think of the canoe livery today. She didn’t quite know what to say. Now I wonder what she would think of the changes we’ve made.
No, I am not talking about the generation that came of age during World War I, although we share many characteristics with that generation. I am talking about my own generation, those of use who came of age in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001. Specifically, I am talking about the Xennial microgeneration born roughly between 1977 and 1983 (1980 here). In my opinion, we are indeed a lost generation.
There are efforts to do away with this microgeneration altogether. It is needed. I don’t fully identify with Gen Xers or Millennials. I have characteristics of both and want to be associated with neither. Many people in my age bracket agree.
So much of it has to do with technology and economics. Most Gen Xers didn’t experience much if anything that the internet and cell phones had to offer until adulthood. They largely had an analog childhood. Millennials don’t remember life without either. Xennials, on the other hand, grew up right along with the changes. Millennials, by and large, had a digital experience growing up.
Economically, Gen Xers didn’t have it easy coming on the heels of Baby Boomers. Eventually most were able to take their place at the table, even if they rebelled at first. Millennials were still young enough during the tech boom and bust cycle, as well as the recession that followed September 11th, that they were able to use those experiences, often felt by parents, to make different economic and career choices. We Xennials were caught in the crossfire just as we were preparing for and beginning our careers. Just as we were trying to recover and establish ourselves, the Great Recession of 2008 hit. Many of us have never fully recovered. My story is a great example of this. Unfortunately, I have always known that I am far from alone.
Nothing prepared Xennials for any of it. We grew up in a time of great economic expansion during the 1980s and 1990s. Of course we did! Baby Boomers were just coming into their careers and purchasing power. They were raising young families: the kids that would eventually make up Gen X, Xennials, and even some older Millennials. In the end, it would not last – and our parents, mainly Baby Boomers, often didn’t have the experience to help us.
Baby Boomers are an odd group. I say that with love and affection because my parents, aunts, uncles, and countless friends are all Boomers. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t a quirky bunch, especially when it comes to money. For example, even though most Boomers found some measure of economic and career success, they are thrifty almost to a fault. They think nothing of spending thousands of dollars on vacations, renovations, and more, but quibble over the price of off-brand ketchup.
When it comes down to it, they can’t help it. They were by and large raised by the Greatest Generation, which experienced most if not all the Great Depression and then the sacrifices of World War II. It may seem ridiculous to us Xennials, but those penny-pinching habits of our grandparents became a part of our parents’ DNA, no matter the economic circumstances they experienced themselves.
I often think about how my own parents started their adult lives, and I can’t help but think of how different the times were. I wonder if my generation could replicate it. That’s largely the problem. We haven’t been afforded the opportunity to truly take our place at the economic and career tables. Our careers and economic lives remain on hold, although that is slowly changing.
Instead, retirement for our parents keeps getting pushed back. We faced absurd college tuition costs while being told that a traditional four-year degree (at least) is the only way forward when it isn’t the answer for everyone. The housing and stock markets crashed just as many of us were about to get our careers going and buy our first homes. Instead, we put off marriage and starting families of our own. In some cases, our lives are still on hold.
Younger Millennials and the generation after all had the opportunity to adjust to new circumstances and realities. We Xennials did not. We seemed to be perpetually at the wrong place at the absolute worst time. That is why we continue to struggle. The rules appeared to change just as we adjusted to the last set. I hope we aren’t completely overshadowed by our parents and Millennials, much in the same way the Silent Generation was largely eclipsed by the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers.
While I still consider us a “lost” generation, I don’t think we need to wander forever. But oh, how I wish we still had the guidance and wisdom of the Greatest Generation! There were so many lessons yet to be learned.