Earlier in the week, I was talking to my eldest son about his University application, where he would like to go and what he would like to read. I do love our conversations, especially the ones that take place in the kitchen, whilst we are both busy doing stuff. It seems the more involved we are in doing stuff, the more honest the conversation. In terms of transactional analysis you would say it was an adult to adult conversation, rather than a parent to child. As we talked we got onto how his friends that have just left for University are getting on. It was clear that there is mixed experiences, with some really struggling and others getting on and embracing the experience.
That got me thinking about 29 years ago when I left home to come to Hull to start my Nurse training. I wanted Ben to know that, the worries his friends are having are normal and almost certainly transient.
For the whole of the first month being in Hull I wanted to go home, most days I sat in my room and cried. Now it wasn’t Hull that was the problem, far from it I loved (and still do) the place, the people and the hospital. If I could have transported my friends and family, this place would have been perfect.
The issue was coping with the transition of my old life to this new life without my Mum, Sister and my friends. I remember suddenly feeling very young and useless. I know my Mum had prepared me for leaving home and had shown me how to use a cooker, a washing machine and an iron. But all those lessons left me the minute she waved me goodbye. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing I was lost.
The minute those hormones start surging through your body when you hit puberty you start pushing against your parents in preparation for being an adult. You start insisting that your parents treat you as an adult, that they give you the freedom you deserve and accept that you can make your own rules now. Then on that long journey to University or in my case School of Nursing, you start to panic. Shit this is it, I’m not ready to be an adult yet!
That was the feeling I had for the first month, the reality of this is it I am moving to my new beginning. William Bridges would describe it as me moving through the neutral zone between leaving my old life behind and forming my new life as a Student Nurse. It was uncomfortable. I made loads of mistakes, like washing a new red t-shirt with all nearly all of my other clothes. As a result nearly everything I wore was pink! I remember eating cold tinned meat and beans, because I didn’t want to look stupid in front of me new friends in the communal kitchen.
I now realise all this is normal and most people go through this pain and discomfort, those that don’t probably didn’t leave home.
After the first month it started to get, I got friendly with some other men in residence that were a little older than me, who taught me how to cook and gave me the space to be me.
A few years later I spoke to my Mum about this time and she told me it was like having her arm cut off saying goodbye to me. I have spoken to other parents who describe that feeling as some kind of bereavement. I so relate to these feelings, as the thought of Ben leaving home next year makes me feel very emotional. It is the same process as described earlier, us parents have to travel through that neutral zone between our old life as parents of children to our new life as parents of adults. We always look back fondly on being a parent of young children and them being dependent on us. Our new life requires us to be interdependent with our adult offspring. We have to learn how to belong in our new life. It is uncomfortable but at least I will never have to sit on my bed crying into a can of cold stewing steak wishing I had paid more attention when my mum was teaching me how to cook.
A message to all of us, it is uncomfortable but so worth it, hang on in there, we are all feeling it together.