I can remember my first day of kindergarten quite vividly–I wore a navy jumper and was rockin’ a Dorothy Hamill bowl cut. I had been working myself into a tizzy for months; that summer I got up everyday and practiced packing my bag for school. (Yes, I actually did this.) I am the third of four kids, so I’m not sure who was more excited–me or my parents, but their calm and encouraging attitude fueled my glee.
Fast forward to the Fall of 1991, my parents were sending me out into the big world again, but this time it was college. When they dropped me off at the residence hall, I was choking back the tears because I wasn’t ready for that change; I was still in high school mode and used to having my childhood friends close at hand. (I learned years later that my mom wasn’t ready for the change either–she cried the whole way home.) But at the time, we each put on a brave face and marched toward the next phase of life.
Change can often feel like both of these extremes–exciting and fun or nerve-wracking and dreadful–it depends on how you approach it.
It’s natural for us to dig our heels in and want the comfort and security of what we know; but without these constant revisions, we become stagnant and bored. Change is a necessary part of our growth.
Transitions create an emotional shift in our otherwise routine life; they challenge us to try new experiences, even when we’re not quite ready for them. Could it be because we know a door is closing, in order to make room for what is next?
I try to remember these thoughts when those jittery feelings creep up:
- Change is good. All progress and movements forward happen because of change. Without these adjustments, we become lifeless.
- Everyone gets nervous about change. It’s a normal reaction to be nervous, even when the change is great and it’s something we’ve been waiting for. Transitions can bring butterflies to even the steeliest of bellies.
- Being brave with the small changes will help prepare us for the big ones. Testing the waters and finding our limits helps us be brave enough to move through the big and small transitions. The more we know ourselves, the better we can prepare for change (and the smoother it will be).
- Ride the wave. Easy transitions are a lot about preparation. And even when there’s not a lot of time to prepare, we can still mentally walk through the process to figure out where we may need extra support. Once we’ve done the work, it’s important to embrace our choice and ride the wave into the next phase; half-committing to a decision doesn’t usually turn out very well.
- Honor yourself. Change can wreak havoc on the body and mind. Checking in with ourselves about our needs and asking for help can be the difference between a smooth transition and a train wreck. A talk with a trusted friend, a massage or a round at the boxing gym can do wonders for managing the stress and emotions that come up with change. We each need to find our outlet.
The next time you face a change in your life, think about how you want to feel after it’s over. Focusing on the after of change can often be the push you need to get through it.
When I’m confronted with a new opportunity to change, I try to remember that sweet kindergartner that still lives inside of me and how excited she was for her first day of school. It reminds me that with an open heart and a willing attitude, transitions can be pretty amazing.