It never ceases to amaze me the number of times I’ve been told that erroneous quote, “I’m too old to learn”. It is utter nonsense for anyone to think, let alone actually say to themselves or outloud, that they’re too old to learn something new.
What’s even more odd is the age range of people who’ve been saying they’re too old to learn things, to educate themselves and grow or expand their knowledge once they’ve reached a certain age. Men and women (mostly women) saying they’re too old to learn new things when they’re only in their forties, fifties, sixties and so on. Hogwash. That ridiculous quote has got to be one of the biggest cop-out’s of all time. You’re never, ever too old to learn anything.
Over the last few months, that cop-out excuse has been used more times than I care to remember by parents struggling with “empty nest syndrome“, where their children have grown up and moved out on their own for one reason or another. Some of the “kids” have gone off to attend college, others have gotten married, while others have simply made the adult choice of living in their own apartment or bought a house.
Numerous email letters from mostly moms who say they feel depressed, “life is over”, feeling as though there is nothing else for them to do in their lives now that the kids have left the nest. Life is over? Really?! Some moms have even asked if, in my opinion, they should consult with a physician to prescribe anti-depressants for them, with the hope the pills would somehow magically lift them out of the “worsening” depression they feel.
Inquiring about the kinds of interests and activities the parents have enjoyed over the years, including the many years the children were still very young and throughout their growing up years, more often than not brings answers such as “my children received all of my attention and taking care of them was all I did”.
Meaning, some if not most of these parents were so completely engrossed in raising their children that they lost all sense of self and sacrificed their own identity, letting go of any and all personal interests, goals, desires, dreams, wishes etc. They’re now feeling as though they don’t know who they are anymore as individuals, men, women, separate and apart from being a parent. “Life is over”, or so they say. What’s the alternative? What choices are there, if any?
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude” – Maya Angelou
Perhaps this is just one of the reasons why I cannot and do not subscribe to “empty nester syndrome” as a real “disease” or some sort of illness, to be “cured” by taking prescription depression medications. Nor do I subscribe to the idea of spending months, if not years, sitting or laying on the couch at a psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s office as a means of getting over and moving on from the sadness empty nester’s feel when their children leave the home. There is no such thing as a magic pill that will miraculously lift these depressed parents out of the sense of depression they feel.
Depression med’s or not, parents dealing with the normal, albeit temporary, feelings of sadness brought on by the normal and natural change of life’s circumstances must eventually come to the realization that life goes on and they must begin to put one foot in front of the other and adjust to the reality that their children are all grown up now and have moved on with their lives – as they should and need to.
One of the most disappointing responses to inquiries about the kinds of activities these “depressed” parents engage in, now that their children have already left the home or are about to leave, is the amount of time spent watching T.V. Some parents spend enormous amounts of time sitting in front of and watching that “boob tube” black box on a daily basis, with several parents actually making suggestions of T.V. shows that I should check out myself. Ugh. Sure, there are some entertaining, educational, inspirational and motivating-type shows to watch. But.
Of all the things I can think of to do with my time and energies, parking myself in front of that black box for hours on end, mindlessly watching what’s being shown on the screen, is a huge waste of time. Living such a sedentary lifestyle, rarely if ever getting off of the couch and actually DOING something constructive, educational, FUN!, affects our overall health and wellbeing – either for the positive or for the negative. It’s all about the choices we make for ourselves.
We can choose to be happy and fulfilled in life, or we can choose not to, opting to wallow in self-pity over our “lot in life” and bring down everyone else around us emotionally or mentally. Life is all about choices, and parents whose children are leaving the home or have left already don’t need a doctor to tell them to stop the self-inflicted pity-party and get on with living their lives to the fullest.
Learn something new, perhaps something you may have never thought would be of interest before. You may surprise yourself and discover the enormous benefits derived from learning how to play an instrument, like the violin or piano, etc. It’s incredibly sad and disappointing to hear from parents who are nowhere near being “old” who say they made sure their children took an interest in reading books of various kinds but don’t follow their own advice and read books themselves. You’re never too old to learn something new! Pick up and read a book! DO something.
Look, life is what you make of it. You can either choose to explore and make new discoveries, learning new things you’ve never thought of before or further your knowledge and understanding of things previously learned – or not. Taking depression medication, giving psychologists/psychiatrists your hard-earned money for months or years, because your children have grown up and moved out isn’t the answer. The answer lies in the reflection shown in the mirror. Take a good, long, hard look in the mirror and make the choices that must be made. What other alternative is there?