As I started writing this post, I was sitting in a hotel room in Elko, Nevada, after a 9-hour drive from Bozeman, Montana. As I finish it now, I'm sitting in our living room. Our family has had a wonderful time over the last week - we all fell in love with southwestern Montana, I think. We also delivered our oldest daughter, Lara, to start her freshman year of college at Montana State University. And while I'm incredibly proud of and happy for Lara, I'm a bit sad tonight. I feel like there's a small hole in my heart, and the only piece that fits in it is still in Montana.
I've always been prone to melancholy feelings at the end of a particularly enjoyable trip - I hate for the good time to be over. This feeling is especially pronounced when I'm leaving a place that I'd like to live - and so leaving southwestern Montana has been especially difficult. But my melancholy at the conclusion of this trip is even more pronounced. Leaving Lara at college emphasizes that our life as a family is forever changing. Lara will always be my first kid; now she's taken a big step on her own path.
Just before Lara was born (nearly 19 years ago now), I had the opportunity to participate in the California Agricultural Leadership Program. At one point during my two-year fellowship, I remember a discussion with my classmates about leadership and parenthood. We came to the conclusion that one of the greatest contributions any human being can make to society is to raise a child who is equipped to make a positive impact on that society. Intellectually, I know that it's time for Lara to find out what she's passionate about doing with her life. It's time for her to cast her own shadow rather than stand in ours'. But emotionally, this is a bittersweet time. I know she'll be fine; emotionally, it feels like we've thrown her into the deep end of a pool 900 miles from home.
Like any life changing event, this change will become easier with time. I know there will be times that Lara struggles with being on her own, just as I know there are times that Samia, Emma and I will struggle with the fact that she's gone (coming home to her unoccupied room was one of those times). And I also know that Lara is a competent, confident and intelligent young woman who will make a huge positive impact on our world. I love being her Dad; I look forward to this new stage in our relationship! For now, though, I'm a bit sad....