We have spent years preparing for this moment, to send my first daughter off to college. And now, 18 years later, is the time to let go, even amidst the mix of hesitation and elation, all at once. If we can forge a way through the pain and discomfort of this time, we might realize the seemingly insurmountable challenge leading to change is transformative in our actions first, and later — in heart and mind. I know what needs to happen and just have to step bravely into this new life season.

That emotional component often takes a length of time, like one’s eyes require adjustment to a shift from light into darkness. I knew this would happen. Some of my closest friends have witnessed either my emotional meltdowns or pain during this season, and gently remind me that God will guide my daughter just as he guided me during my college years. But finding courage to keep going, to stay optimistic, and to find humor and refreshment along the way — that will stay with us long after these numbing, discomforting days are quieted.

I am reminded there are so many reasons to celebrate. My daughter has a plan for her future! She is courageous, bravely learned online, hybrid, etc. for more than a year of high school during a global pandemic, and remained cheerful during that strange time. She navigated her high school years with humor, depth, and compassion, and will do the same in college. I remind myself to be willing to persevere, to stay the course long enough to see the magnificent sun lower on my personal grief and rise the next day where my eldest daughter holds new and fresh opportunities.

The progression to college and graduation into adulthood is an immense honor. Applying for a variety of schools, being accepted into great schools, and awarded a nursing seat her first year along with a great deal of scholarship and grant money: all of these are remarkable accomplishments. To arrive at this point took years and many milestones. So, shifting the lens of my framework and outlook helps me remember the many hard-fought battles, difficult classes, prayerful choices, and depth of effort it took for my daughter to arrive prepared for this monumental day.

Still, have I done enough as we have raised her? Has she learned all the vital lessons for life on her own? Surely she does not know all my own personal stories, and at the same time, she will have her own journey through college, only one hour north of us in a Denver suburb. Her own tears and struggles will become meaningful and lead to growth.

This year will be busy for me professionally as a team lead, and the new responsibilities will be meaningful and likely help me feel like I have renewed purpose as I release my daughter to the world. Just as I encourage my educator colleagues, — self care and boundaries are incredibly helpful.

As I navigate the emotions surrounding my daughter leaving home and living an hour away, I know she will likely encounter many challenges and bouts of loneliness, and experiences for which I cannot ease her pain. She knows I am one telephone call or text message away, and my love is constant and remains. My daughter is independent, stubborn, patient, and gentle. I know she will make a positive difference in the lives of those she meets at college. As we prepare for this milestone, I cannot help but recall those times in life we pushed through pain and change and look back on them as seasons of beauty and joy.

In this season of change, I will make sure the seeds of kindness and love also cultivate peace and hope within my own heart as I learn to release my child to her exciting future.

We set our hearts at rest in his presence. — 1 John 3:19