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(An Almost) Empty Nest, OST

Transitions and Tunes: A Playlist for the Empty Nest

OST (Original Sound Track) is the music specifically created for a film, in this case, the movie of my life.

Here's the Spotify playlist (you can also find links to the music in youtube below):

It was the 4th of July 2001, the day we arrived in the US, landing with 2-month-old Ana. We were driving from O’Hare to St. Joseph, MI, our new home. We were welcomed by fireworks all across the Lake Michigan coast. Since then, every year during this holiday, we’d gather with friends and their kids on cookouts, beach days, and fireworks. On the 4th of July 2024, Marilu and I were in Michigan, alone this time, reconnecting with all these friends, but without our kids for the first time. 

In the early years of our life in the US, I was struck by the stories parents shared about their high school-aged children choosing colleges far from home. These young adults often selected schools in different cities or even on the other side of the country. They'd live on campus, returning home only for special holidays and maybe a week or two in the summer before starting jobs. After college, they would embark on their careers and independent lives. Parents would speak with excitement, saying things like, "Yes! I have two kids out and only one to go. We’re only two years away from being empty nesters!" They expressed a sense of relief and freedom that puzzled me.

Growing up in Mexico City, the concept of an "empty nest" was foreign to me. College or work was always within commuting distance, so we came home every day and continued life as a seamless extension of high school, blending new and old friendships and attending multi-generational family events all year round. Life flowed naturally without the complex, shocking transitions I heard American parents describe. Independence happened gradually; many didn't entirely leave their parental homes until marriage, myself included. The separation was gentle, like an ebb and flow, a natural progression rather than a sudden break. This was the usual way of growing up.

Over the years, I realized that what I thought was normal was a factor of the circumstances I was born into, but these vary widely worldwide. Even some friends who grew up in smaller cities in Mexico would leave their hometowns to attend college in a larger city, just like the Americans did. I also realized that since I had chosen to live in the US, I would likely have to accept my kids would do it “the American Way,” and the thought terrified me. I lived in denial during the early years of my children's lives, but as they approached college age, I began to accept it.

The day arrived, and Ana left for college. Just as I had heard, during her college years—pandemic excluded—she visited us for only a few days at a time. She graduated and now lives independently in Milwaukee. Diego started much closer, only three hours away at the University of Dayton, and visited us more often. However, he has decided to finish the last two years of college in Alaska, so that we won’t see him for almost a year. Now, we are discussing where Mateo might go; he’s even mentioned the possibility of studying in Spain.

Since Ana left, I have experienced new and profound emotions, which have intensified since Diego decided to stay in Alaska. Expressing this is so complex that I could not find one artist or album that’d relate to the many feelings it represents, so I chose to do this write-up as an “OST.” 

So Far Away, Carole King

Does anybody stay in one place anymore? Perhaps the song that best expresses my emptiness is: It Would Be So Fine to see your face at My Door; it doesn’t Help to know you are so far away.” This song, from Carole King's iconic album "Tapestry," perfectly conveys the longing and isolation of distance. It’s one of Carole King’s most emotionally charged songs, offering solace in knowing others share the same feelings of yearning.

Pride and Joy, Stevie Ray Vaughan

Though this song was written as a tribute to a lover, its vibrant energy, uplifting mood, and lively tempo perfectly capture the immense pride and joy I feel watching my kids chase their dreams, achieve academic and career milestones, and lay the foundations for their lives.

This song captures the duality of departure. The lyrics, “Leaving home... but may be the only way,” present the struggles of those who leave and the heartache of those who stay behind. While Freddie Mercury is Queen's iconic voice, this song shines with Brian May’s vocal contribution, showcasing the depth and versatility of the band. Brian’s performance adds an emotional layer that makes the experience of leaving home universally relatable.

So Far Away, Dire Straits 

“And where are you when the sun goes down?” This question lingers in my mind almost every night as I come to terms with the fact that I can’t and shouldn’t know every move my kids make. Though the song might have been written for a lover, its emotions are similar to mine. Dire Straits delivers these sentiments with their trademark impeccable style in a song of reflection on separation and longing.

Landslide, Fleetwood Mac

“Well I’ve been afraid of changing

‘Cause I built my life around you

But time makes you bolder

Even children get older

And I’m getting older too”

This Fleetwood Mac song eloquently expresses the bittersweet reality of growing older and adjusting to new life seasons. It's one of their signature songs, blending emotionally charged lyrics, beautiful melodies, and Stevie Nicks' stunning voice.

The Circle Game, Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell strikes a dagger in my heart every time I listen to this song: “16 springs and 16 gone now, cartwheels turn into car wheels through the town. We’re captive in the carousel of life; we can’t return. We can only look behind from where we came.” The melancholic narrative so vividly reminds us how quickly our kids grow in the blink of an eye. Joni, thank you for all your songs. 

Cats in The Cradle, Harry Chapin

Although I dedicated as much time as possible to my kids, this song captures the different phases of our lives. It reminds me that as they grow and step out into the world, they are carving their paths and moving forward while we remain supporters in the background. This realization brings a bittersweet acceptance that they are now looking ahead, not behind.

Father and Son, Cat Stevens

It resonates not as much because of my relationship with my father but because of the questioning of what my life would be; there are so many open questions and so much to explore. What would it take to get to be old and happy? As the years go by and my kids grow, I cherish the happiness of seeing them find their way as they face the same questions.

Sometimes, their absence feels almost unbearable. I miss the familiar sounds of them coming and going, the sound from their rooms, and our family dinners. There are moments when worry creeps in, fearing they might feel lonely, only to realize my feeling of loneliness is projected on them. Yet, when I hear of their successes, joys, and the new chapters they’re writing, my heart swells with pride and happiness. 

As Mateo’s departure date approaches, emotions swirl within me. The thought of an empty nest makes me sad, an emptiness I know will be hard to fill. But alongside this, there's a sense of possibility, a chance to explore new paths beyond my corporate career. This transition whispers of potential and new beginnings. Will time make me bolder? Perhaps it already has.

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1 Yorum

Ruben TG
Ruben TG
07 Tem

Muy buena reseña y se aprecia que la compartas ligada a la música. Me puedo imaginar Moy los sentimientos. La vida es constante cambio que orgullo ver a tus hijos volar y mi admiración por hacerlo fuera de la zona de confort. Así es amigo la vida continúa. Vamos al campo de golf cuando estés por México abrazo

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