Arriving at Your Transition
On Transition: discovering ourselves in the lesser defined spaces of life
Here’s the thing about Transition: usually, when you’re in it, you can’t wait to get to the other side. Because being in transition, in the middle of something or somewhere that the pieces don’t fit together in an entirely comfortable way, is hard. It makes you face uncomfortable facts about yourself that in relatively normal circumstances, you casually ignore. It also makes you face the realization that there are many things around you that, no matter how hard you struggle, cannot be controlled. But here’s the other thing about transition, I’ve found that often when you reach the other side of the place that caused so much discomfort and felt so ill-fitting, you realize that it was actually a real and defining part of your journey.
I’ve been in transition for what feels like a very, very, long time. When I close my eyes, I have momentary flashbacks to my very first moments of saying goodbyes. As an adult, I’ve come to recognize that the act feels like closure to a period of transition, but as a child, it felt like the moment of transition itself.
I was six years old and living in West Texas when I left behind my very first best friend. My father had been hired as a ranch foreman, and we’d spent two years running and playing (in that, oh-so-80’s-childhood type of way) around the windswept prairies that were filled with both silence and noise all at the same time. Our house backed to a shared backyard space that boasted a wooden play structure with a striped canvas top, and I can still remember saying “see you later,” but all along knowing that it was a forever goodbye. More than 20 years later, I find a sense of irony in the fact that I cannot for the life of me remember my dearest childhood friend’s name, but I also recognize and understand that it marked the beginning of a feeling that would stay with me for decades to come.
I could actually write an entire essay on the moment to moment transitional periods of my life, and I say that without jest or sarcasm. After a childhood traversing the globe, I landed as a young adult on the East Coast, where my husband and I married young. Before my 33rd birthday, we’d welcomed three beautiful children into our lives, moved across the country five different times, and between the two of us, completed two undergraduate and two graduate degrees.
Looking back, what I now recognize is that in those years where most people discover themselves in a relatively ordered and mapped sequence, I found myself mixing pieces of life – growth, joy, chaos, triumph, and challenge altogether – all at once, in a constant state of transitional existence. There was no neatness, no formula, and definitely no plan about how to get from A to B. We mostly moved from transition to transitional period – finding a sense of home in knowing that there was still more, yet to come.
I’ve also realized though, that through it all, I was in the transition of finding a home in myself.
When I was younger, I had a lot of dreams and goals. My friends and family might laugh when they read that because this innate drive doesn’t entirely live in the past tense. What I have come to understand, however, is that then or now, I didn’t want to simply accomplish all the great things or give life a particular meaning, I craved the feeling of arrival. Because then, in arriving somewhere, there was a stopping point – a culmination of accomplishments and everything I’d worked towards. You see, I think that we all crave that feeling of arrival, of finding an end to the period of change, growth, challenge, and stretching.
But do we ever really arrive? Is there a stopping point to any of our journey’s while we are still breathing on this earth? Or can that feeling of arrival find us in the spaces and boundaries that are less easily defined?
So, what now? I’m standing bravely on a precipice, looking forward to yet another new period of transition. In a few short weeks, I’ll be walking away from a graduate career at the University of Washington and stepping into a new, unknown period of life which already poses so many opportunities and challenges I hardly know what to do with them. As I embark on the next transitional chapter, this is what I’ve learned, this is what I know.
Life is a lot of small transitional moments, strung together and leading to the next transition. I’ve learned not to wish this process away because it’s a significant part of my journey. Often I find that I discover the most about myself during these times, as painful as they may be.
And this is my challenge for you, to join me in acceptance of the lesser defined spaces of our lives - in the transitional moments.
This year, wherever you find yourself, let’s all embrace those moments in the journey – the ones filled with self-doubt and uncomfortable stretching in the midst of a transition, and let’s own them. Let’s find acceptance in understanding their true nature, in what they’re really about. They are about coming home to ourselves, in the midst of our uniquely beautiful and messy lives. They are about the process of discovering who we are, about connecting the meaningful and less meaningful moments in our lives that make up the fabric of who we are.
Some transitions are adventures, some are painful, and some are so gradual that you hardly notice them until they’ve passed – but whatever they are, they are yours to find yourself, to find joy, to find peace, and to find life in.