I turn 40 in November and I feel like I just learned something new about myself: I don’t like transitions. It feels a little lame to acknowledge this, but it’s true.
This past week another year of school started for me so I have been in the throes of transition for the past couple of weeks. A new schedule, new students, some new curriculum, and new job responsibilities to name a few. I love my routines and habits, but when I am adjusting to new ones I feel in limbo and out-of-sorts. Even though I have known this about myself for a long time (loving my routines), I haven’t learned the art of suspending judgment or my feelings from dictating how I feel about life at the moment. Everything feels raw and my emotions are right at the surface. I put pressure on myself to have all aspects of my life figured out NOW.
And so, this is where I find myself at the moment—feeling the need to figure out all the new stuff in my life. The irony, of course, is that in the next two to three weeks this will all seem so trivial and insignificant. I will smile and chide myself for being “too uptight.”
I am reminded, though, of some of the bigger transitions I have made in my life in recent years. Our family has moved thousands of miles (twice!) as Brad has pursued his PhD goals. Moving from Vancouver, British Columbia to Central Texas was a huge transition for our family. From the landscape, to the temperatures, to the change in cultures, every aspect of life was new. I began working full-time for the first time since having children. Both Jacob and Anna attended school for the first time (we had homeschooled up to that point), we were living in a new house, and Brad was adjusting to a new PhD program. There were certainly some bumps along the way, and the sense of being unconnected and new lasted longer than I anticipated.
I learned some valuable lessons, however, in the process. First, I needed to put down roots here—deep roots. Even though I didn’t necessarily like the “soil” I was in, this was an important step for me, and I think for anyone else who has moved into a new area or situation. I think too often we try to convince ourselves that a situation is temporary, and that we will just “gut it out” until it is over. When I read scripture, though, I am reminded how temporal life is. My life could end tomorrow, and if I always waited until life was more to my liking before putting down roots, I would miss out on a lot. It sounds cliché, but life in community is so vital at these junctures. I need friendships. I need a church body to belong to. I need to embrace the place which is home for the time being.
The other lesson I learned was that it takes time to adjust to a new place. It took three years for me to feel like I was settled in Central Texas. A favorite author described this process as riding the waves rather than fighting them. I was bracing myself for every wave, and getting knocked down each time a big one came along. Once I accepted the fact that I was here, and quit trying to fight the changes, the differences, and whatever else I could critique, I found it freeing to ride the waves and allow them to carry me along. Acknowledging this certainly didn’t mean that my life was somehow easier and happier. Instead it freed me to direct my energies towards those things I really cared about like my family, making friends, and getting to know my community. I still have moments of longing for another place or circumstances, but my life is full of many good gifts for which I am truly grateful.
As another week begins and I face the newness of another school year, I am reminded of a favorite saying of my mother’s, “This too shall pass.” In just a couple of weeks I will be looking back on my transition angst as a thing of the past.