The art of embracing the transition phase


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Transitions – A storm front at dawn.

 

Transitions.

Transitions are never really seamless are they?

There is always a clear difference between the starting point and the end point, but the middle part tends to be messy.

I remember when I was losing my baby teeth for adult ones. It was painful and having a gap between your teeth looked funny. But it was ‘normal’ and it was easy to deal with as everyone around me was going through the same thing.

But when it comes to an emotional change or shift in mentality from one stage to another, I feel that it’s a lot harder to deal with because there are no ‘teeth’ or tangible markers to indicate progress, regress, or even the fact that you are in a transition phase. Also, it seems like we are frequently faced with processing and handling these subjective changes alone as not everyone around us is experiencing the same thing (or if they are, or have experienced something similar, they have chosen to keep what’s going on with them private).

When I struggled through a transition period

After returning from my travels, I was in a state of limbo for a couple of months. I had a clean slate and the possibilities were endless, but the ‘endless’ part made it difficult to decide on a course to take.

Since I didn’t know where I was at, I made a lot of ‘non-choices’ such as:

  • moving out of home but put off changing my address on the papers because I was unsure as to how long I would be staying there;
  • delay making a decision on signing up and joining a tennis club to play pennants because I didn’t know if I would be here for the whole season; and
  • not being able to RSVP to weddings because I couldn’t tell the couple if I was going to be around at the time.

I generally avoided making any commitments that extended beyond 2 months because I didn’t want to disappoint, and I didn’t want the promises that I made to hold me back from making any decision about staying in Perth or going out into the world again.

This was a tough period. I just felt stuck.

But after working for a while, I started to live more in the present and I allowed myself to commit to things as I stopped worrying about the future. I officially changed my address, joined that tennis club and played pennants, signed up for two semesters of zouk dancing class, got back into indoor beach volleyball and invested time in my family and friends by accepting invitations to events and get togethers. I was very, very happy at this point of my life! I felt like things were moving forward. I enjoyed not thinking about the future, consequences and trying to figure out my life ambition. I lived in the moment and lapped up summer.

Learning how to embrace the transition period

Now after several months of allowing myself the space to have fun and to live in the moment, I’ve started to become restless as some of the decisions and the ‘non choices’ I made a few months ago, no longer feel right. And so, I’ve re-entered the frustrating transition phase.

But it’s OK. Even though I’m still frustrated and annoyed because I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m trying to embrace this awkward transition phase by reminding myself of the following:

1. It’s OK to change your mind – we are in a constant state of change

The question of what I wanted for the future was brought up in a discussion recently. While trying to figure out ‘what I really wanted’ under pressure, one of the things that I blurted out was

 ‘we are always changing, and what I want now may be different to what I want in two weeks time.

I didn’t know what circumstances ‘Future Anna’ would be in, so I thought, why should ‘Now Anna’ worry about what may or may not happen when making a decision that is presented to her now? Any choice made will create its own variables of potential circumstances (which may or may not be different to what I had worried about at the time of the decision). So I’ve decided to tell myself that it’s best to address any issue relating to a choice when, or if it ever eventuates, and to not let my past decisions restrict me as it’s OK to change my mind. I’ve found that once I’ve reminded myself of this, all that pressure from worrying is gone! It has also made me be at peace with my past decisions and to be open to re-looking at options that I may have discarded previously.

2. No choice is a bad choice so long as the choice feels right to you at the time

Following the first point, I found that so long as I make a decision that feels right in my bones at the time, it’s not a bad choice. When I began to make decisions based on what sounded logical and what felt right at the time to me, it really felt like I was going with what was natural. I felt happier and free after the decision instead of second guessing myself as to if I did the ‘right’ thing. By prioritising my needs and wants over other people’s feelings and considerations, I felt more in control with my life. And even though the decision may be wrong for others, so long as I was happy with my choice, if it was a mistake, it was my mistake to be made.

3. Mistakes are totally cool

I feel that trying to avoid making mistakes is pointless. You’re never going to know it’s a mistake until after the fact when you see the consequences. But instead of accepting a mistake as a lesson (as in ‘yup, my bad, serves me right’), I think we should focus on embracing a mistake as a lesson (as in ‘oh damn, so why was this a mistake?’ and ‘what does this show me?’). I’ve made a lot of rookie mistakes and I’ve found that when I understand the lesson, the mistake doesn’t define me as a bad person for making it. Instead of feeling guilty, embarrassed, hopeless and wrong, I actually laugh at myself, shake my head at ‘Naive Anna’, and I feel happier because I’ve been enlightened.

4. Transitions are the exciting part of life

I think transitions are the ‘chaos’ aspect in life. So many possibilities and uncertainty. It’s the part where we don’t feel in control, and where the concepts of ‘predictability’ and ‘routine’ are shelved for the time being. I find it stressful and I tend to ‘get my worries on’ because I don’t know what to expect. There’s so many more questions than actual answers. But looking back on previous transition periods, they are when I’ve grown the most. It’s where I’ve been tested and where all my defining moments and memories are created. When I was in my routine and I knew what I was doing day in and day out, I got comfortable, stopped asking the questions and searching for answers. Though this made me content, and happy, it did not put me in the situation where I had the potential to learn about myself and grow. So while stressing out during this transition time, I’m constantly reminding myself that this is the exciting part, so try to enjoy it!

5. This too shall pass

Like all things in life; the flu, feelings of excitement, achievement, disappointment, heart-break, stress, problems, wins and losses etc, this transition period will pass with time.

Just got to hang in there! Gaaaah!


 

What do you guys think?

What kinds of life transition periods have you experienced?

How have you coped with change and what lessons/tips did you learn from it?

How have you dealt with difficult and unclear choices?

I would love to hear from you and share experiences!

Connect to me in the comments section!

 

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What to do when you’ve lost the map and you’re in a ditch


Trying to figure out what's what.
Trying to figure out what’s what.

I started losing my map in 2008.

Over the years, holes started to appear and chunks with the direction of where my life was meant to head towards started to go missing.

Then in May 2014, on the return from my trip around Asia and Europe, whatever remained of my map dissolved before my very eyes.

It was a slow and disorientating experience and I fell into a ditch.

I would love to say that I returned home victorious. Alive! Bursting with happiness and excitement! A zest for life! Enlightened!

But I didn’t.

I came home feeling like I wasn’t ready to be back in Perth, but I had no idea where I wanted to go.

When I returned to my little room in my parent’s place wearing my worn out travel boots, my buff that smelt like Finnish snow and my backpack that contained my life for the past 7 months, there was this unusual and claustrophobic-like sensation.

I then took my time easing into meeting up with friends. All of them very happy to see me, and I too was happy to see them and catch up on what has been happening at home. But I felt like I was on a completely different page to everyone.

Everyone had their maps intact. People were moving up in their careers, they were engaged, they bought houses, they had kids. I didn’t know what I wanted.

I was at a friend’s get together, weeks after returning to Perth, when I realised that whatever map I had at the beginning of the trip, didn’t survive the flight home.

Amongst all the excited discussions about house renovations and wedding plans, when the conversation fell into my corner, I just said,

Well, life couldn’t get much worse. Got no job, got no money, got no house, got no boyfriend…got no idea what I want to do with my life.

As soon as the words came out of my mouth I just tilted my head back and laughed loud and whole heartedly.

It was only a little over a year ago that I had everything sorted. I had a successful job in a corporate law firm, I was in a long term relationship, I was playing state indoor beach volleyball and I had paid off my car loan and was saving for a deposit for my first home. Life on paper was good.

I think my friends thought I had gone a little crazy and perhaps a little scary. But the feeling while I said it was just so funny. Given what I had, it sounded ridiculous, but it was so true.

I also felt relieved.

I realised that once I had acknowledged this fact to myself and openly to others, I was no longer feeling ashamed. And in fact, even though my previous life on paper seemed good, I was miserable. In light of this revelation, I thought back to one of the most honest statements I’ve ever heard. It was something my friend Anne would say all the time while Kev and I stayed with her and Jian in London.

It is, what it is.

Yup. It is, what it is. This was my ditch. And now I had to get out of it.

What made me smile was knowing that getting out of a ditch without a map meant that anything was possible. I didn’t have anything holding me down, I didn’t care about other people expectations anymore, which on hindsight, I realised, was what my old map was based on.

After the initial sadness, regret, anger and the tragic moments of me crying out ‘Why?!‘ I became excited because it dawned on me that after losing my direction,

I can draw up a new map!

So I spent weeks chatting to my best friend, Chia, about goals, life, love and about what makes me happy. I became a little overwhelmed with all the possibilities, and I reached my first hurdle of becoming stuck.

I didn’t want to make a mistake when drawing up this new map and that fear caused me to avoid making any definite choice/decision.

But Chia helped me draw out my very first draft of my new map.

The beginnings of a new map, a new life, a new direction!
The beginnings of a new map, a new life, a new direction!

I teared up in happiness when I saw it. It was simple, but that’s what I loved about it! It was the start of something new. Something that didn’t have any input or influence by family, friends or society expectations.

It was mine.

So what to do when you’ve lost the map and you’re in a ditch? – Draw up a new map! 

From trial and error, I’ve identified 5 things that I try to focus on during this scary-exciting period:

1. Admit to yourself and accept that you have lost your map and you are in a ditch.

If I continued to pretend to myself, my family and to my friends, then I was going to continue to hold on to the ‘idea’ of my old map and remain lost and in the ditch;

2. Put aside pride to ask for and to accept help/directions.

Most of my life, I kept my problems to myself. I am all good with being fun, happy and all open with people, but the true gritty, hard issues I had always figured out by myself. Yes, it teaches you to be independent, but being lost and in a ditch is already emotionally and psychologically hard, making it even harder to think straight. Be nice to yourself and seek out your partner, family or friends to help you bounce ideas around and to at least let them know where you are at, so they can be supportive and not demand more of you during this time; This leads into:

3. Be a good friend to yourself. 

I know that I am the meanest, bitchiest, slave-driver to myself. I expect immediate results. I do not accept mistakes or changing my mind or ‘piking out’ on commitments once I’ve committed. Though this is great work ethic, it’s not great for when you are trying to figure out what you want to do. You are starting something new, something not done before! You are an explorer, a scientist even, and all those explorers and scientists have tested, tried and failed at things and that’s ok. You learn from those experiences. So make those choices, make those mistakes and give yourself a pat on the back for trying.

4. Dare to think and do the things that makes you happy. 

When you don’t know what you want, focus on what you do know, and pursue the things that make you happy. So long as you’re doing what makes you happy, you’ll be… well.. happy. This sounds easy and wishy washy but it’s actually the hardest, which is why a lot of people either look over it, dismiss it and make up excuses for not doing it. I know I did (and still do at times). I’ve tossed and turned over going back into law or a professional office job because I have the experience, some elements I enjoyed, and I needed to make a living if I were to be able to start my life again (and to travel). But when I thought about it and when I interviewed for it, it made my stomach sink. So I knew that this path was not going to make me happy at this point in my life.

By exploring and reconnecting with things that make me happy, it has helped me tailor my job search to something that I will enjoy doing and the job search journey has become exciting for once! You can read up on how that’s going in the Work part of this site and you can see what things I’m considering when I’m looking for the perfect job in my post on The 5 intangible benefits from the perfect job.

5. Understand and remind yourself that the map is a work in progress.

Circumstances change all the time. I’m beginning to realise that, that’s life. If your map does not evolve to reflect the terrain that you’re currently on, the map is wrong. Having the wrong map is worse than having no map at all. If you have the wrong map, it will take you to a place that you don’t want to go to, or it will just make you even more lost.

When Google maps tells you that the restaurant is in front of you, but then you look up from your phone and see no building, from my personal experience, it is a lot more productive and fun to turn off your phone and let your self wander – you never know what you may find!

Let’s be brave and do some wandering together!


 

What do you guys think?

Have you ever had the experience of your life becoming unclear? What happened? How did you cope with change?

I would love to hear the stories of people who have come unstuck from a situation that initially felt hopeless, or even stories where you may be currently in a ditch and don’t know where to start?

Are there any other tips to add to ‘What to do when you’ve lost the map and are in a ditch’? This is a work in progress for me!

Let me know in the comments section?