I thought it’d be easier this time around, but I was wrong.
These past two weeks, I’ve found renewed value in an article I wrote about the year after my sabbatical. This comes at a time as I’m transitioning into new possibilities in contract work.
It turns out, I could use some reminders of lessons I’ve already learned to be true.
Thinking back to my childhood, the transitions from endings to beginnings haven’t been the most enjoyable. Worthwhile and developmental? Absolutely. But as I look back on the transitions made from one school to another, high school to college, college to job, job to sabbatical, and sabbatical to freelancer/contractor—they haven’t been the easiest for me. There’s been a common remnant of unease around saying goodbye to the old and embracing the unknown.
My natural inclination is to try to control the unknown. I generally like to approach new situations with care, preferring certainty, safety, and a solid plan. Up to the point when I transitioned from college to a full-time job and began climbing the corporate ranks, at least I was following a proven, conventional path that the majority of individuals in our society take. Even though the transitions weren’t always easy, I took some comfort in the path treaded by many others.
But when I finally accepted that the corporate path wasn’t right for me, I was faced with a greater unknown than I’d ever experienced.
I no longer had a rough outline to follow. I needed to forge my own path and take full responsibility for the outcome.
Doing so required me to trust in my ability to figure it out, even though I had no idea of what I was going to do or how I was going to make it.
The first big unconventional leap was difficult, but I made it. During my sabbatical, I explored different areas around what may be the next step for me. I found part of it in Uncoveries, as a place to document my journey and learnings in the hopes of helping other people with theirs. A second jump. In wandering around, I found a part-time opportunity that I’ve been working on for the past year. Yet another leap. As I prepare to wrap up the contract, I feel the similar tinges of fear and uncertainty as I approach the next cliff.
There’s a sense of impatience around this upcoming leap.
Part of me thinks I should have this process more figured out by now. Shouldn’t it get easier as I go along? Perhaps I could’ve avoided some of this if I’d done something differently.
It’s in this way I’m relearning the first lesson I learned in the year after my sabbatical: you never figure it out completely.
Transition continues on throughout our entire lives—and try as you might to hold it back, the tide eventually reaches the shore.
I’m also reminded of the second lesson: that the process is often messy, inefficient, and confusing.
Internal shifts don’t respond to practicality, discipline or deadlines. It’s different from external changes that can happen in just a day or within a few weeks in your life—like changing jobs, developing a new relationship or moving to a different city. Transition is the internal growth that can occur with or without the external changes.
I find myself once again in a period of reassessment. It’s followed by erasing—the letting go of what’s familiar without something stable to hold onto quite yet. Next is exploring different options of what’s to come. These three phases are what’s necessary to move forward; I know it to be true.
Reassessing, erasing and exploring are part of a process you need to play bigger, to evolve, and to grow as a human being.
These stages weren’t historically enjoyable for me. There’s always a part of me that wants to push forward, yet an equally strong part of me that resists, pulling back and wanting instead to sit quietly on the side. This was the case especially once the conventional path ended. Because what if I fail? What if it doesn’t work out? What if I choose the wrong path? What if I’m not ready?
Reassessing can be painful as I wonder if I’m missing something or if I’m bringing unnecessary pressure upon myself. Erasing can feel like warm blankets of safety being yanked away in the grogginess of the early morning when all you want to do is hide under the covers. Exploring can sometimes be exciting—but when the stakes feel high, the fear of failure around the new and unknown feel intimidating.
Like I’ve done in the past, I’m persevering through this transitory phase. More importantly though, I’m resolving to enjoy the process the best I can this time around.
I want to be more patient in allowing the unknown to unfold, to feel more confident in my ability to figure it out and to experience more excitement around new possibilities.
I’ve realized the need to reassess doesn’t mean you chose the wrong path or could’ve made a better choice. Reassessing plays a natural and inevitable role in our development. It allows for the awareness before a breath of new can be on the horizon.
Erasing is necessary to make room for the new. You can’t effectively move forward if you’re still clinging to the existing debris. While it can be scary to let go and confront the emptiness that remains, it can also feel liberating. You’re creating the space for opportunities that you may be unable to fathom from where you are now.
Exploring is as scary as you make it. There’s a freedom and power when you have a growth mindset that views trials and failures as simply part of the process. I’ve found that if you follow your intuition instead of what you think you ought to do, things will inevitably work out for the best in the end.
What it comes down to is allowing the lifelong process of transition to unfold naturally while enjoying every step of the way.
The best we can do is to enjoy the journey of getting to where we want to go, because in the end, that’s what life is all about. Everyone’s journey includes beginnings and endings, joys and sorrows, successes and failures. Our specific experiences will differ, but we all go through five phases of a cyclical, lifelong process of transition that I share in this article.
By noting, embracing and respecting each of the five phases, each one of us will grow in flow with the natural progression in our lives. Over time, things will gradually become more effortless and meant to be. In sharing the details and strategies of what I’ve observed, I hope to help others better navigate the messy and priceless journey we call life. Until next time.