A few days ago my son (who is a public relations major at a university in Los Angeles) called me to let me know he'd gotten an interview for a prestigious PR firm. I was ecstatic for him; he's good at what he does, and I know this internship is an important step towards success in his field.
He called again the morning of the interview, stuck in traffic on the 405 Freeway, slightly panicked about whether or not he'd make the interview on time. For the record, he'd given himself almost two hours in rush hour traffic to make the 38-mile drive, because that's just how LA is.
Anyway, he made it on time, he got the internship, and will now begin making that two-hour commute three days a week. He will be wearing a suit and be working in a skyscraper with a glass elevator, a mahogany-paneled conference room, and his own office. I'm sure there will be evenings out on the town and plenty of lunching at Beverly Hills restaurants.
And in the midst of all his success, I found myself inexplicably depressed, despite being HUGELY proud of him. And it wasn't Empty Nest Syndrome, either. I found myself depressed because he's running headlong into the life I ran headlong out of 20 years ago.
You see, I was also public relations executive (apples don't fall far from their trees, do they?). I had an expense account, two secretaries, a company car, and worked no less than 50 hours a week, oftentimes more. I wore tailored suits and made good money, but because I lived in such an expensive city, I had little left over at the end of the month.
Some of the problem was me -- I loved eating out, having my clothes dry cleaned, and taking vacations. Some of it was the price of living in LA, where my crappy, one-bedroom apartment in a so-so part of town cost about $1500 a month and my car insurance was more than my actual car payment was.
I loved those years of my life, but truly, a part of me always longed for the country. My vacations were always to mountain villages, remote and undeveloped islands in Greece, or just up the coast to Big Sur. I rarely visited other cities, because I lived in a huge one already. The truth is that, with all my success, I longed to get my hands into the dirt and to simplify my life.
Eventually, I did just that, and I raised my son in that same, simple life. He had lots of animals, wide open spaces and a Mayberry-type town to grow up in, out in the endless, flat fields of the California's Central Valley. But now he's in the city, living in the exact place I moved away from because I felt it wasn't a good place to raise children.
I guess that's a good example of irony, isn't it.
And so, along with my pride in his accomplishments, I also have some fear. I fear for him, living in a city that often chews nice, kind people up and spits them out for breakfast. I'd hate to see him lashed to the mast of a two-hour commute on a permanent basis. And as much as I want him to meet new friends and even have a great relationship, I want him to be able to disconnect from LA Life when he is ready and fly away.
But of course, my son is college-age, and all these decisions are his to make. I just hope that his upbringing of having a love for the land will stand him in good stead and ultimately bring him to the place he's meant to be. Some of it's trusting him, some of it is trusting God.
But since I am neither of those individuals, my job is just to wait and see. And that's not an easy job, I'm telling you.