Finals week. First trimester. Starting a new job. Recent breakup.
These all have one thing in common: they are periods of transition. And they can be some of the most difficult times in our lives. But, as I once read, also the most growth-filled.
A few years ago, I had this realization. Early childhood and adolescence is easy, relative to adulthood, because it's so organized. We are moved along through classrooms and rites of passage and everything has a time and place. There are sometimes even appropriate outfits to wear. We know what to expect, we know what's expected of us, and we know what we need to do to move along to the next "classroom".
I've noticed, with clients, that once adults graduate college (if we choose that path after high school), we sort of get stuck. We don't have anyone telling us what to do, where to go, and how to do it. We don't have clear directions on what jobs to get, how to manage our time effectively, how to cook/feed ourselves and negotiate relationships with other adults struggling with the same challenges. So, we make choices based on what makes sense for who we are and the best skills we have at the time. We choose partners, jobs, clothes, haircuts, cars, etc. We do our best with people who are also doing their best. And sometimes it's a damn mess.
Before I grounded myself in a spiritual practice, I always saw my life as a never-ending, gut-wrenching, marathon of agonizing leaps from one lily pad to the next. I never saw them as connected. I never saw them as essential to my growth--to my path of awakening and maturity.
I always asked aloud what I was being punished for. I kept friends on the phone for hours, begging for answers to help me through yet another major life transition. I always experienced the same feelings and emotions: panic, powerless, hopeless, scared, depressed, abandoned, dejected.
When I saw my life as one big question mark, I was often really uneasy and anxious. I saw each change as an omen that I was doing something wrong. I clung to situations and relationships with people even when they didn't serve me, just so I had a sense of having "ground" or being stable, even when I wasn't.
I don't live my life that way anymore.
I realized that our classrooms and learning opportunities never really stop when we graduate with a diploma from high school or a degree from a university. Our lives are one continual education. And if we see life that way, and welcome it, we understand that transitions are going to keep coming into and out of our lives--just as they did when we moved from 3rd grade to 4th, anticipating our favorite teachers for homeroom.
While transitions may be extremely uncomfortable, here's the good news: they don't last, that's why they are called transitions.
If you see your life as one continual practice session, one opportunity after another to try, fail, learn and try again, as opposed to the penultimate measure of your character and self-worth, you may find transitions to be less taxing emotionally and mentally. You will welcome them, knowing they serve a wonderful purpose to move you from what wasn't working or ideal toward a place of growth and evolution. They are essential so you can learn whatever is necessary before you reach the next stage of your process. The adjustment is normal. Things will shift. You are changing and growing. This isn't always a pleasure to experience--but it is necessary for your path.
Greet your life, each day and month and year--each minor and major transition--as another classroom, another "grade" passed successfully. When you make a change, anticipate that things will be a little rocky, receive that change as you would catch a raw egg---gracefully, delicately. You don't want that thing exploding all over you, right? How can you take what you learned from the past and apply it to this new situation or experience? How can you embrace all that you aren't yet to become who you want to be? How can you make the transition work for you?
You have made changes before, and you are just fine. Really, you are. Anticipate the change, anticipate the unfamiliar, and watch how easy the transition becomes.
When making a change, be it a job, a relationship, exploring a new identity or a new exercise routine or even trying new foods, always factor in that you will have an adjustment period and remember it will not last. Recently I made a few changes in my life and there was about a week where I felt REALLY out of control. My sleep quality was extremely poor. I doubted my choices and I anticipated the worst. I complained a lot. I was scared.
Then I remembered, "this is a transition period."
When I recentered myself and remembered that the changes I was making meant things would improve in every aspect of my life, I allowed myself time to grieve the old and embrace the new. As soon as I had that clarity and created the time and space for this emotional shift---all the undesirable symptoms dissipated.
Every single one.
And they were replaced with feelings like grace, gratitude, joy, balance, optimism and abundance.
I sleep through each night, content and relieved.
Remember, if you're being fearless and seeking growth and change in your life, transitions will happen--and they will happen regularly. Prepare for this! Embrace it!
And remember, the transition won't last forever. That's why they are called transitions.