I wrote this article just over a year ago (but did not post it). Still, it remains relevant. Again, I find myself on the verge of yet another transition. Change ahead as my youngest child soon leaves for college. That means "empty nest" for us – a host of new challenges – and opportunities – ahead.
They happen all the time, right? People coming and going from our lives. Hellos and goodbyes. Happy, sad. New jobs, new neighbors, new opportunities. New responsibilities.
The saying, “Change is the only constant in life” is attributed to Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (535–475 BC). Indeed, change is something we encounter every day, moment by moment, as we travel through this life.
But transitions are a bit different. They are stretches or seasons of punctuated change. They have a way of affecting your heart, mind and sometimes actions. And often, they are not easy.
Why Can Transitions Be Particularly Challenging?
Transitions upset the status quo. They sometimes disrupt the natural flow. Humans struggle with transitions because they struggle with the unknown. Something deep down inside us wants to know what’s ahead with certainty. When we go through transitions, we often cannot see what lies ahead clearly. That uncertainty often produces unease.
I’m in a transition right now. As I write this, two very special people in my life are leaving. No, not death (the ultimate transition). But they are leaving my everyday world, and I need to learn how to cope with that.
The first is my daughter. She is leaving for study abroad. It is not particularly long, nor is she in specific danger. But it’s her first time abroad alone. There is that twinge of sadness that she’ll be gone, mixed in with a whole lot of excitement for her. It’s the letting go – necessary, and good, but not easy.
The second is Laura, my writing buddy over the last several months. We would meet early in the morning at a juice bar & café, she working on a master’s thesis, me working on a book. We both made tremendous progress in those consistent early morning hours.
She’s turned in her thesis, will graduate soon, and move on to a new location and job. I’ve finished the first draft of my first book. But there’s several editing stages ahead before it becomes a real, published book. Right now, I feel as if I’m at the foot of the next major mountain – with no writing buddy in sight.
Can I do it?
3 Steps I’m Taking To Navigate This Transition Better
1) I’m finding a healthy outlet for my transition-related feelings
I recognize I need to write out my feelings as I go through this. Or, at least talk them out. I must try to verbalize, somehow, this sadness, this sense of loss associated with the transition. If I keep it all inside, it will only bring me down. I don’t want that to happen.
I need that catharsis, that sense that I can transition to the new season ahead and achieve victory in it as I did in the old. Writing helps me a lot. For others, it might be exercising (that helps me a lot too, but in a different way). The main point is to find a healthy outlet for the varied emotions accompanying transitions.
2) I’m slowly, but surely, celebrating the change
As I first identified, then expressed, my feelings, I’m learning to own the transition and not let it own me. I’m recognizing that I have much to treasure in the moments I’ve spent with these two young women. I’m also excited about what lies ahead for each.
I understand if transition involves significant loss or hardship, this step can be difficult. But it’s also necessary. Losing a loved one, for example, brings so many challenges. Still, treasuring the gift of that person in your life until now, and recognizing, in most cases, he/she would want you to move on and thrive, not pine away – this is key.
What happens if you lose someone with whom you had unresolved issues, even painful memories? You may need some counseling to help you move on. Once you recognize that, you can then take steps forward. One step at a time.
3) Envision Ahead – Make Time For A Day Set Apart
I am making the time to take a reflection day. For me, it’ll be this Saturday. I’m clearing my calendar until the evening to get outside, hike, pray, think, and probably write some more. As a Christ-follower, I’ll also look to God’s Word to help me discern new direction and bring more clarity.
Finally, How do we Deal with Change in a Multicultural Environment?
I believe change in multicultural environments require the same steps as above. But when the various nuances of culture play a role, it can be valuable to step back and attempt to discern how strong those influences really are.
For me, I say goodbye again and again across cultures. In fact, I’ve been doing it most of my life, working with international students. Only few remain in the same city as I; most will move elsewhere for jobs or return to their home countries. Saying goodbye is never easy. But I try to make it a special moment for each one.
I believe that’s the key: reminding the person you’re saying goodbye to that they matter to you. This truth communicates across all cultures. People have a deep desire to connect. To love and be loved. To know and be known. And to matter. Do this and regardless of the culture, people will sense your authentic heart. It (and social media!) will keep you close as you physically move further apart.
What strategies have you developed to deal with transitions?