I became a single parent to my two children almost four years ago. Now, I write about lone parenting and relationship breakdown.
Many years ago - in 1995, to be precise - I met a woman at a bus stop. I was with my ex-partner then; it was before we had any children of our own and we had no idea how the future would unfold. We were not even living together, although that, and the children, would come.
The bus stop was in Turkey - Fethiye, if I recall correctly. We were there on a kind of mini backpacking trip; it was the first time we had been away together if you discount a weekend in London. I was the one obsessed with seeing the world. I've always been a dreamer.
The mini backpacking trip involved booking flights to Dalaman and carting around a very heavy backpack in scorching Turkey for three weeks. We didn't book any hotels; didn't even have any details of anywhere to stay, aside from recommendations in the Lonely Planet. We didn't have the internet, or mobile phones - it would be another three and four years, respectively, before we would acquire those.
The Words I Have Always Remembered
Ridiculously, the trip was conducted on even more of a shoe string than already planned, due to me leaving half of my money in the car on the lift down to the airport. But it was a memorable and amazing experience, not least because it was the first time I had ever done anything like it. Turkey was only just starting out as a popular holiday destination and, to me, it was an intriguing and exciting place; a land of treasures.
Our first 'hotel' had campers and coloured lights in the garden, and an army of ants had taken over the bathroom. It was surreal. The accommodation was awful, but the beach was postcard-perfect. Elsewhere, we made friends with a local family and stayed up all night, drinking Raki, playing card games and learning to speak Turkish. Somewhere else, we were woken at an unearthly hour by both a cockerel and the call to prayer, and one afternoon we were invited to a free, personal, and very beautiful rendition by a local man playing an instrument that resembled a mandolin, but wasn't. I was enchanted.
But that's enough of that, because this story is not about our holiday to Turkey. I'm getting carried away by memories. What it is about is the woman at the bus stop, and her holiday to Turkey. Twenty-two years later and I can still remember her, and more so the words she said in the few minutes that we shared one another's company:
"I'm sixty, I'm divorced, and my children are grown up. I want to see the world."
Life Is For Living
She was travelling alone. She had spent years raising her family, and now they no longer needed her; not in the same way. I was inspired by her; by her determination to grab life and make the most of it.
Life is for living at every stage - it should not be dependent on your age, or whether or not you have a partner. You shouldn't hold back and allow yourself to stagnate just because life didn't work out exactly as you'd hoped. Waiting is unproductive. The moment might never come, and then what? Then, you won't be able to look back on a life that was as full as it might have been. Regret is the saddest thing.
Enjoy Life For YOU
Raising a family is a full-time job. It's both rewarding and tough. It goes without saying that parents make sacrifices in order to give their children the best life they can. But what about when those children grow up; when they become less dependent, leave home?
That moment should be the go-ahead for you to enjoy life for you. A chance to visit all those places the children weren't interested in; a chance to seek out your own passions. And yes, if you find yourself in later life, divorced and on your own, it can be a chance to travel alone, to wherever your heart takes you. There are plenty of pros - travelling alone will be a whole lot cheaper, and you get to plan the whole itinerary, without compromise.
Life is like a flowing river. It is not supposed to stand still, yet this is still what a lot of people do. They get stuck in the same old routines; they put obstacles in their own way. It's too difficult. It's too expensive. It's too much effort. Maybe one day. Maybe if I had someone to go with.
I have no idea what happened to the woman at the bus stop, way back in 1995. She was sixty then - now, she will be eighty-two. What I do know is that she travelled independently around Turkey, and elsewhere, all on her own, because she wanted to and because she could. She didn't have any dependants to consider; there was nothing holding her back. She no longer had a husband (who might have tried to talk her out of it). Her kids had left home. She was out there, just her in a huge and fascinating world, taking in the sights, meeting new people, experiencing something more. She had no one to answer to. She had as much freedom as a Turkish bus (or an aeroplane) allows.
At eighty-two, one can look back on life and feel gratitude for all they have encountered. Perhaps this lady remembers her time in Turkey with fondness and nostalgia. Perhaps the trip changed her in some way, because we all grow with experience, no matter how old we are. Surely, looking backwards, it is all that we have done that we feel thankful for, not all the times we were too cautious to let go.
A New Chapter
I am a single parent now. My partner and I were blessed with two sons and we shared over twenty years together. One of my sons is growing up fast; he will be off to university in two years. The other is still young.
Due to my ex-partner ending up in America, I do most of the parenting on my own. Of course, I adhere to the children's needs. I make sacrifices of my own so that they might enjoy life more. I take them places they would like to visit; places I would be unlikely to be drawn to otherwise. I choose holiday destinations based on access to swimming pools and places of family interest. It's what every parent does. Of course, seeing my children happy brings with it a happiness of its own; they are my world, right now I wouldn't want it any other way. But still, planning just for me would likely take me in an entirely different direction.
There is great happiness and fulfilment in bringing up a family, but as they grow up it is important to remember who you are. You can rediscover yourself. Many parents feel a sense of sadness and loss when their children grow up and fly the nest. The house might feel empty and quiet, even when you are married or living with a partner. When you are separated, and living alone, it might feel even worse.
The important thing to remember is that it is simply a new chapter. Life isn't over - in some ways, it may be just beginning. Don't be like the stagnant river, no longer going anywhere. Remember who you are and what you want, and go for it. Get out there and enjoy everything life has to offer. Find yourself again - because we all lose bits of us when we're busy raising the family.
Who are YOU? Do you know?
© 2018 Polly C