Senior Year Spiral :: The Joy in the Road Less Traveled

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I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. ~Robert Frost

August 2018. I sent my oldest daughter off for her last first day of school. I couldn’t believe she would be graduating from high school in the spring, but as we know–time waits for no one. Still, it was difficult to accept the reality of my firstborn graduating and going off to college. 

At least I thought she’d be going to college. It was never really discussed, we just assumed. You know what they say about assuming? Both her father and I went to college and pursued advanced degrees… So?

Don’t get me wrong, she did the whole college application process. Completing what felt like thousands of college supplementary essays; for me to edit. Pulling all of her accomplishments together to apply for scholarships, grants, and other financial opportunities because she refused to get student loans to pay for college. Yes, we did FASFA. In the end, she didn’t get into any of the colleges she wanted to and the ones she did get into were not the ones she wanted to go. The entire process became known as, The Senior Spiral.

The Senior Spiral: That pivotal moment in a high school senior’s life when everything they thought they knew is challenged and makes them question who they are as individuals.

It was extremely difficult to watch her go through, but there was nothing I could do about it. I listened as she tried to talk her way into understanding, I held her when she tried to cry her way into accepting, and most of all… I gave her the space to explore her options. This was the hardest part of all for me to do. To simply sit by and watch my well-put-together daughter flounder and doubt. But, I did it because she needed to go through it. One of my favorite Rumi quotes says, “The cure for the pain is in the pain.”

The beautiful thing about a spiral is in its construction. The epicenter of a spiral is relatively small, but as the curves move farther away from the source, they become larger and more powerful. The source of the spiral is of little consequence in the long run because it’s what comes out of that source that makes for the beauty and strength spirals are known for.

The Outer Curve: When a high school senior acknowledges who they are and what they do are two different things and is able to accept who they are is more important than what they do.

It took a lot of hard work. Meditation, journaling, yoga, and music to get the curve moving away from the source. But when it happened, let’s just say, when one places their intentions out in the Universe–the Universe conspires to make those intentions a reality.

August 2019. My husband, two daughters, and I dropped my oldest daughter off at Charlotte-Douglas airport on the 25th. Her flight to San Francisco left at 7:38 a.m. She was set to meet roughly 150 Global Citizen Year fellows for a week of bonding, learning, and preparation to start their gap year. Yep, this isn’t a typo. My girl is off to Brazil for eight months to live, learn, and work as a lab assistant at the Federal University in Caterina state.

No. In answer to your question, I have never known anyone who’s done a gap year. No. I didn’t even know there were accredited organizations out there providing gap year programs. And No. I am not at all disappointed with the road she’s traveling.

As your high school seniors start their last year of grade school, I implore you to remember the following:

  1. Just because you’ve never seen it done doesn’t mean it can’t and shouldn’t be done.
  2. 90% of effective communication is listening; do more than hear what your senior is saying.
  3. Never assume. Period.
  4. When it happens, the spiral; listen to them, hold them, and give them space.
  5. Be open to them taking the road less traveled.  It made all the difference in Robert Frost’s life…

Remember, life is a journey. Just because you’re wandering doesn’t mean you’re lost. Until next time, stay enchanted.

Did your child experience the senior spiral? What advice would you add?

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Ella Shawn is a contemporary women's fiction writer with a fondness for complex characters and happily-ever-afters. She also produces a podcast aptly named, Enchanted BEAST Podcast where she elevates, encourages, and empowers women to connect with their higher self and live the enchanted lifestyle they deserve to live. And because she's a mommy of three beautiful daughters, she writes for a mommy blog once a month. If she's not writing, podcasting, or blogging; then you can probably find her sitting in her favorite chair with a ball of yarn, her wooden crochet hooks making something bohemian-inspired for her Etsy shop, Browns-n-Barnacles PCD. Ella married the boy she fell in love with during her senior year of high school. They started dating in 1992 and either they both were too lazy to look for other options or were lucky enough to find their happily-ever-after at the age of seventeen. Ella says it the enduring love she shares with her husband that allows her to write romance novels with hard-won HEAs. After developing systemic lupus erythematosus and narcolepsy w/cataplexy, she and her husband decided it was time for her to come home and learn how to live as healthy as possible with the new reality their family was now facing. It turned out to be a blessing, because a few years later, her youngest daughter developed two of the rarest neurological sleeping disorders in the world (Klein Levins Syndrome- a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty Disease and Sighted Non-24). Not only is Vickey able to be at home with her daughter while she attends South Carolina Virtual Charter School and when she goes into KLS episodes, she is also free to pursue her passion as a romance writer, podcaster, and blogger under the pen name; Ella Shawn. Her enchanted platform is an extension of her philosophy of living, loving, and evolving. She writes to gain understanding of the hard choices women often have to make. She endeavors to create enchanted spaces in which to disrobe and see the whole of who she is, and who she isn’t. Vickey shares her journey of self-discovery through writing romance novels, on her podcast, and in her blog. She loves connecting with women who enjoy seeing glimpses of their truth wrapped in sexy happily-ever-after’s. Vickey uses her platform to encourage women to reconnect with their true and essential selves. To cultivate and nurture spaces where they cease being simply women of flesh and bone and become Enchanted Beasts. When she’s not being Ella Shawn, or learning coach, or caregiver, or being taken care of… You may find her painting, crocheting, meditating, or sweating it out in a hot yoga class. But she’s a wild and free spirit who would be just as happy living in a converted van and tooling around the country—sleeping where she runs out of gas. Landing wherever she lands and meeting whoever she meets. However; she’s pretty sure her husband and children wouldn’t be willing to pack up and hit the road with her and, anyway—where would all the piggies go? So, she indulges her nomadic, bohemian spirit with planned travel, mother-cation weekends, and her ever-growing imagination.

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