Significant change, even good change, is hard.
It signifies the conclusion of a certain path on life’s journey, typically represents the end of a season, and often requires some sort of goodbye. I dislike goodbyes of all kinds.
One of the aspects of change I find most difficult to process is an awareness of the unfulfilled hopes and ideas of what might have been possible on the former path. Whether a change in employment, town, or direction along the journey of life, the decision to shift and pursue something different requires leaving behind a path that will continue to exist without me and I without it. Any plans, notions, or expectations that weren’t experienced before the change will continue to remain shrouded in mystery, a loss of potential that resides permanently within the limbo land that fills my thoughts with unknowable “what ifs” and “could have beens.”
Of course, there’s no way to experience more than one route at any given point in time. (Although I not-so-secretly wish I could glimpse the future of different options when facing various crossroads in my life.) Reality is everyone has to make choices and accept that, for better or worse, these choices will influence our life journey.
This summer, seasons of change have been on my mind as my family has navigated our relocation to a new city. I’ve moved a number of times in my adult life and even though every move has been the result of an exciting and welcomed change, the process has still been challenging. Each move has presented excitement over all the possibilities in our new location and melancholy over all the unfulfilled potential in our former place. Every time, as I prepared to move, the same questions plagued my mind: “Did I make the most of my time in this location?” “Did I do my best to get involved in the community, to make connections, to be God’s hands and feet to my neighbors?” “Is moving really the best decision?” Of course, these are tricky questions, and likely could all be answered with both a “yes” and a “no.” For me, the ambiguity just adds to the layer of second-guessing and overthinking that is involved with significant change, further compounding the variety of conflicting emotions that are a part of seasons of change.
Now, the change of a move is, in and of itself, difficult and filled with nuanced emotions. However, the journey also produces an additional side effect that I struggle with: the in-between transitional season of waiting. The transition waiting period that accompanies seasons of change provides an opportunity to replay through all the aspects of the decisions that lead to the change. Change takes time and there can be a lot of waiting during this season. And while change is hard, waiting levels it up, adding an additional aspect to the emotions of the journey.
I have a hard time staying in the moment once I know a change, especially one involving a move, is on the horizon. My thoughts are often pulled to the future and the endless list of decisions that will have to be made and tasks that will need to be completed. However, oftentimes the necessary transition season preceding a change doesn’t allow for scheduled plans, but instead requires patience, flexibility, and a degree of spontaneity. I’m a planner, I like routine and the expected, so I often feel claustrophobic in the in-between stage, since future plans often can’t be made and previously made plans often have to be canceled, due to timing variabilities. For example, during my family’s recent move, the transitional season leading up to our actual moving day lasted four months, during which time many of our life plans had to be put on hold and new plans were just not feasible to make due to all the unknowns in timing. Being stuck in a months-long in-between stage was not a season I enjoyed.
I have navigated many seasons of change in my adult life (moving seven times, changing jobs six times, and the ultimate, at least in my mind, life season change of becoming a parent), and yet I’m still caught off guard with how difficult, how melancholy, how emotional change can be. I’m still surprised with how much of a sense of loss I face when I reflect on the reality of the potential possibilities in the former path that will remain unfulfilled. Even in the excitement I feel for the future and the hope I have of all the possibilities contained within the next phase, I still heavily feel the sense of loss over missed opportunities, goodbyes, and the shift in direction.
Since I’ve experienced a number of seasons of change, it would stand to reason that I’ve become adept at navigating all the emotions of change. That I now have an arsenal of tricks and tips to make the transitional seasons more manageable, having, of course, mastered grace and peace as part of the process of change. But, honestly, I am no better at it now than I was the first time. During the past four months, throughout my family’s relocation journey, sometimes the only thing that helped me was repeating the mantra, sometimes in my head and sometimes out loud, “just get through it.”
I know it’s not a very satisfying piece of advice to offer, “just get through it.” There’s nothing that positive or productive in the notion of simply getting through something; but, despite this, it’s actually been a helpful reminder for me. Sometimes there is nothing that can be said or done to ease the emotions of certain situations or eliminate the frustrations of particular seasons of change. Sometimes it’s enough to just get through.
So, I will learn to sit with this sense of “both” as I continue through this current season of change. I will work to accept that even though change brings goodbyes and melancholy, it also provides excitement and hope. As my family concludes our time in the town we’ve called home for the past three years and transitions to a new community, I will continue to remind myself that we will get through this current season of change. And I will do my best to keep in mind that there are many seasons of change that accompany life’s journey and that sometimes it is enough to just get through.
Wendi is co-author of The Unexpected Ever Afters blog and enjoys sipping extra hot coffee, sharing a love of reading with her kids, and exploring bike trails.
photo credit: personal photos