Advice & Features Articles

Kick Off a New Passion

By Alicia Wanek

Perhaps this fall has meant a big transition for your child.  Moving on to middle school, high school or off to college brings big changes for your kids, but it can bring big changes for you as well.  Maybe your little princess has even gotten married or your youngest has moved to take a new job in another state.  It’s part of the joy of parenting to watch your children as they grow and become their own people.

When our kids were babies, it was hard to even imagine the day would come that they wouldn’t need us for EVERYthing. Now they just say, “See ya later” and head out the door.  They DO still need you, but they don’t demand as much TIME from you now.

What will you do with all this extra time?

Nap? Lunch? Catch up on that TV series you love?   All good…but maybe there’s something else you’ve been meaning to do.

Consider Going Back to School

This is when you can study something you’ve always had an interest in.  You may want to explore a new career or finish the degree you started before the kids were born.  A junior college is a perfect place to explore your passion without spending a fortune.  Take a class in art history or learn a new language.  Richland College in Dallas offers courses such as dog obedience, wedding planning and a real estate certification program.  Their Richland Emeritus plus 50 program for adults 50 and over includes day trips and courses in everything from computers to wellness.  It’s called continuing education because we can all benefit from learning something new.

Take Up a New Hobby

When I was in middle school, the student whose piano lesson was before mine was a man older than my father.  I assumed he must be a virtuoso working on a difficult piece until I arrived early one day and heard him practicing the most basic of songs.  It turned out he had always wanted to play piano and had decided it wasn’t too late to start.  I’ve remembered him several times as I’ve gotten older when I think I’m too old to try something.

My own Uncle Harry worked 80-hour weeks as a physician for most of his adult life.  When he semi-retired after his youngest left the house, he decided to take up golfing.  He says that, especially in retirement, it’s important to maintain an exercise regimen and relationships with friends.  “Golf kills two birds with one stone so to speak.  It’s a social game, and it gets me outside and doing things.”  He has more time to work on his swing than he would have had a few years ago, too!

Maybe you’ve always enjoyed dance?  Chamberlain School of Ballet, (see p. 68 for related story) offers open enrollment programs for adults in ballet, tap and modern dance—NO prior dance training required.  Don’t worry—these classes don’t perform at the recital!

Creative expression is something many of us miss as adults.  The Artists’ Showplace Gallery in North Dallas is filled with the works of many a late-blooming artist.  This “hidden gem” showcases the works of sculptors, jewelry artists, painters, etc. in its 12,000-foot facility.  They also offer art classes and painting workshops, often led by renowned artists, but don’t let that

intimidate you.  “We welcome artists of all skill levels to join us to create, learn and have fun!” says San Cheang, director of art education at The Artists’ Showplace.

Getting your game on may mean starting a new exercise program.  Shannon Rene of Fit N Pilates in Plano says, “Exercise can be your best medicine for stress. Regular exercise can help you more effectively deal with stress and reduce the negative side effects of the stress in your life.”  Shannon worked in several different fitness facilities before she decided to open her own studio, where she uses her passion for helping clients in their journey to achieve personal fitness and wellness, as well as her belief in the core principles of the Pilates method.  She believes, “The more you move, the younger you become.”  Just keep that in mind while you’re working out!

Find a New Group to Hang Out With

When my youngest went to school, I joined a book club with my mother.  It gave us something to do together, and I was looking forward to having time—and an excuse—to delve into a good book.  Clare Korst’s children have all left for college, and book club has been a wonderful outlet for her.  “While I certainly miss having our kids at home, one of the good things about all the kids being gone is that I get to rethink how I spend my time.  I am getting the chance to do things I love—like reading.  Joining a great book club not only allows me to pursue that passion but has also brought me a new group of fabulous women friends who I adore, and who I would never have gotten to know if I had just stayed engaged in the groups that were associated with my kids’ activities,” she says.

As your kids are getting older, it’s likely your friends’ kids are, too.  Enjoying time with other couples is a great social outlet.  A dining/cooking club can be a perfect way to set aside time to get together with friends over a good meal.  These groups usually have a basic structure that’s established early on—at someone’s home or a restaurant?  Potluck or take turns cooking for the group?  Gourmet or casual?  How often? After they get going, I’ve heard of supper clubs that have been meeting for decades.   Laura Lynch, of Savored Journeys, says a supper club “is just a fun gathering of friends around the table to share a passion for cooking (and eating!) a delicious meal and good conversation.”  Who doesn’t want more time for that?

“It’s a great way to stay connected with friends, share some wine and learn new recipes,” says Harriet Heckel of her longtime cooking club.

The options are truly limitless.  Whether you are interested in bridge or mahjongg, travel or history, the metroplex is bound to have other people who have the same interest.  Consider going to meetup.com to find a group for you.

Make A Difference

Why not pair your interests with an opportunity to help someone else? Non-profits are always in need of volunteers, so you may want to consider giving some of that “extra” time you have to a local organization.

Maybe you have an interest in helping kids with special needs, reaching out to help the homeless or addressing the drug epidemic.  There are thousands of local non-profits making a difference.  Websites like volunteermatch.org can help you find the perfect fit for your interests, your availability and your location.

As our kids get older, we have the opportunity to focus on ourselves a little more.  My uncle says, “You can’t expect to just sit at home and be happy.”  Figure out your passion and get moving!

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