“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” -C.S. Lewis
This time of year always reminds me of life transition. Equal parts promise and terror, change doesn’t allow for much comfort. Whether wished for or not, change shakes things up, causing us to question ourselves and our circumstances. Take, for example, the transition to college for which many of my clients are in preparation. We spend time in session discussing what they hope to study, how they will cope with roommate issues, and how they can find emotional supports, yet much of the time it is evident they have no idea the magnitude of change heading their way. There is simply no way to fully prepare for something you have never experienced. All the planning in the world does not negate the moment when the reality of the change hits. I vividly recall, and sometimes share with my clients, the sheer panic that hit me when my parents’ minivan approached the exit for Notre Dame on move-in day my freshman year of college. Up until that point, I had been overflowing with excitement and not at all hesitant about being hours away from the familiarity of home. And yet, when the familiar was pulled out from under me, I desperately wanted to drive as far from that campus as I could. In the midst of transition, hope and excitement coexist with, and sometimes even feel overshadowed by, anxiety and uncertainty.
Life is filled with endless changes big and small. Be it going off to college, getting married, having children, losing loved ones, building a career, ending a marriage, kids leaving the nest, illness in ourselves and those we love, and so on. Some changes we know are coming and some are unexpected, but none can be perfectly planned for. Our ability to sit in the midst of deep discomfort without either running back toward familiarity or hiding determines much of how a transition plays out. Welcoming uncertainty with all of its inherent opportunities and risks is one of the biggest tasks in a life well lived. Feeling uncertain, anxious, or unsettled does not mean we are coping poorly or making the wrong move. Rather, in the midst of life transition, these emotions signal growth and transformation on the horizon. Beautiful, gut-wrenching, courage-inspired growth.
So the next time a wrecking ball crashes into life as you know it, breathe deeply. Expect intensely mixed emotions and trust that the inner turmoil of change is there to facilitate growth. Life often doesn’t look or feel quite how we thought it would. But if we are courageous enough to allow for change and have faith in ourselves to evolve, life might just turn out to be more fulfilling than we could ever have imagined.