On Being Left Behind.

In recent weeks I’ve been reflecting on the new reality 
that has moved from a distant image in my rearview mirror 
to a sideways glance screeching up beside me 
on I-94.

My Maddie is heading off to college 
and I'm getting left behind.

The idea of being the one left behind is a relatively new concept to me. 

 Most of my life

I’ve been the one actually doing the 






I’m hard-wired to crave adventure 

and I’ve been doing it since 1987.

If you know the Enneagram at all, I'm a raging 7.

To the core. 


I’m a first-born, 

five years older than my brother 

and the first to head to college, 

so I didn’t experience the ‘left behind’ phenomenon 

that is about to land squarely in my lap. 

I was the one who left for the grand adventures. 

And to be clear, 


Cart-wheels on the end-zone of Soldier Field

while avoiding security guards? 


Dumpster diving for artwork in Chicago’s finest art district? 

So fun. 

Puddle jumping in the rain on busy city streets? 


Red Line train rides to Comiskey Park and beyond? 

The sights and sounds were exhilarating.

Oak Street Beach at night, 

staring out at the water and up at the high rises?


Jazz Fest in Grant Park over Labor Day weekend 1987? 

I couldn’t even believe it. 


Simply magical.

Freedom actually.

You get the point. 

I wish the FitBit would have been a thing back then 

because I’d give anything to know how many miles I logged 

my freshman year at Moody. 

I did it all and all included school work in the middle of the night

 – night after night – 

when curfew permitted me from exploring my city.


I’ll never forget ‘the actual goodbye’ that hot summer day, 

where my family drove away, 

leaving me all alone on the campus sidewalk 

not knowing a soul. 

I wouldn't see them until Christmas that year, 

four months later.

My heart ached in that moment 

and the sadness felt so heavy. 

So heavy. 

I was a jumbled up mix of scared and excited.

But mostly excited.

By the time I got back to the Houghton Hall elevator 

heading up to my 4th floor room, 

I met Alice - who turned out to be one of my best forever friends.

We were both all alone on campus

and without skipping a beat we became fast friends, 

bonding over Van Halen and Vivaldi.

She was the even to my scattered 

and the chill to my ‘over-ness.’ 

To this day, 

she is one of my very favorite friends. 

She knows me. 

She loves me. 

Our friendship bloomed in a season 

when life was on fire with newness 

and delight was extravagant. 

I certainly missed my family 
but I was so full-blown excited 

to try every new thing on every new horizon, 

that I didn’t give too much thought to the fact 

that my family was a country away,

life continuing on for them and for me.

I had left them behind and didn't really know what that meant.

I was young, barely 18. 

I was a small-town girl living in Chicago, 

a riveting city with so very much to offer, 

that quite frankly I didn’t give it one thought 

as to how my mom, dad and brother were feeling without me. 

I was - how shall I say it - completely self-absorbed.


Fast-forward thirty-three years 

and my first-born Maddie leaves for college on Thursday. 

Suddenly I’m the one being left behind while 

she traipses off into the wild blue yonder. 

The nerve.

And I couldn’t be happier for her. 


I actually am 100% thrilled and excited for her!

Her potential. The new. The dreams. The adventures.

She's ready and she will light up her campus and new world

because she's just that kind of girl.

She has SO much to offer this world and I'm itching

for her next chapter to unfold.

Her college chapter.

If I had to venture a guess,

I'll be all sunshine and rainbows

until we pull out of Calvin’s campus Thursday evening,

driving away without her. 

Without her.

And then I have a sneaking suspicion 

that sadness will seep into my bones 

and settle in for an unknown amount of time.

I’ll be a puddle of tears the whole way home

and my guess is the sadness will hit at random times

and in random ways

for who knows how long.


Things will be different. 

They just will be. 

Good but different.


A part of my actual heart will be in another state 

and I’m not sure how to process that just yet.

She won’t be under my roof at night. 

I won’t hear her voice every single day like I have the last 18 years. 

18 years. 

She won’t leave avocado on the counter for me to clean up.

I'm secretly glad about that.

She will be experiencing her new chapter

and I'll circle back to feeling all the excitement and joy

 for her. 

And if I know much about myself,

I'd guess I'll be back in the happy range of emotions

pretty quickly.

It's just who I am.

We raised her to be independent.

To take risks and be brave.

To fly.

To find out who she is.

To love Jesus and love others.

Truth be told,

I'll take this being left behind mystery any day,

if it means she gets to go be more of

who God made her to be.

She has that same adventurous spirit.

She has a fire in her belly

and a hope in her heart

and a joy in her soul

that needs to continue being unleashed.

Go be amazing you, Maddie.

I'll be here cheering you on 

every single step of your journey.


Mom said…
This is so special. Thank you, Alysa, for your beautiful words. Maddie is so special and our prayers go with her as she starts this part of her life.

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