Today is my first day of “empty nesterdom” (not sure if that’s even a word!). Today is also my birthday. An exclamation point of sorts on this new life change. A million people have written about this day. I’m not going to do that.
Instead, I want to blog this year about what happens when I get my feet back on the ground (something I’ve not had in a few years). See who I meet. What situations arise. What crazy questions I’ll get from my boys who are sorting through this first year of “living without mom!”
I also want to challenge myself. I want to be authentically me.
Being “authentic” is an incredibly hard thing to do. We live in a world of conformity and acceptance. In our new “world,” we’ve made it difficult to stick by our values. We are singled out on-line all the time. It’s a scary and bullying world.
One of my boys is at a college that’s quite different from his life view points. But, the opportunities for him there were hard to beat. During orientation, they were asked to identify in different values/likes and in doing so, move in or out of a circle they’d formed. At one point, when they asked the kids about an aspect of the group, my son knew he would be different but held to his values. Turns out he was the he ONLY freshman to step into the circle when that one particular identifying value was put out there.
After putting aside my horror at him being singled out, I realized that he’d done what most of us want to do but are afraid to do – he was authentically himself without fear of being ostracized or singled out. I admire that in him!
But, as we know, too much of a good thing never goes well. I once read an analogy between virtues and vitamins. Consuming vitamins is necessary for health—but if you take more Vitamin C, for example, than your body needs, you’ll just pee it out. If you take too much Vitamin D, it may hurt you and you could end up with kidney problems.
Aristotle believed that virtues were like Vitamin D. Too little of a virtue is bad, but so is too much. He argued that every virtue sits between vices of deficiency and excess. Too little generosity is selfishness; too much generosity becomes self-sacrifice. Too little pride makes us meek; too much leaves us narcissistic. Too little courage makes us cowardly; too much makes us reckless.
So, where’s the balance? I don’t know. What I do know is that to be an authentic person and have a meaningful life, I need to do the difficult inner work to develop myself, have a strong moral compass based on my beliefs and values, and work on problems that matter to me. When I look back on my life it may not be perfect, but it will be authentically mine.