I recently read the book Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age by Bruce Feiler and my main takeaway from the book was that transitions are becoming more common. It used to be that life was seen as more linear. Think back to our great great-parents’ generation and we might see a more predictable path with fewer life changes. In my own grandparent’s lives, there were wars and leaving families behind, so they encountered their share of upheavals. But aside from these upheavals, I don’t think there were as many life disruptors – and probably partly due to travel limitations. It’s so much easier now to fly and go somewhere. This makes change possible and desirable.
Feiler’s book points out that as a people in “perpetual flux”, we will experience a major life disruptor every one to two years. In a household, at least one person will be undergoing a major change in their life at any given point.
When I think about the pandemic itself, collectively, as a nation and the world, we have gone through so many changes in the past couple of years. Our world changed forever since the start of COVID. Even CDC policies keep changing; as parents and workers, we keep having to recalibrate our expectations and reassessing our decisions about keeping ourselves and our families safe.
When I think about my own life and especially my 20s and 30s, just in geographic moves alone, there were a lot of disruptors – I probably moved over a dozen times in that decade. With that, there were changes in jobs, relationships, and identity. But like Feiler talks about in his book, each change brought greater clarity. With each change, I felt more freedom. Movement can give us a sense of agency – that even when we’re down and hopeless, we have the power to act on our situation. We can engage with our possessions, figure out what to keep and discard, resurrect old memories, and forge meaning through our memories and the next chapter in our lives.
Any major change is the chance to gain clarity in our lives. The process may be uncomfortable. The lingering effects of a major move or life change can last years. Sometimes, we don’t feel it until later. But the important thing to remember is that no matter how earth-shattering the change is, the more we’re able to imagine a future where we will have meaning and purpose and joy again, the more we can advance towards it. There’s power in simply holding out hope that the future will be different – I will find peace, I will laugh once more, I will find love again, I will smile again.
So, if you find yourself in transition – whether voluntary or involuntary – and you feel stuck or hopeless, gently remind yourself that this might be a chance to reflect and gain clarity about your situation and your life and that if there’s even a 1% chance that you can believe things will be different in the future, hold on to that belief. It will make all the difference.