Last week, I saw a Youtube video of Maria Shriver asking people about their own experiences on transitions. The video was first released around the end of March, I think, and obviously by that time, she would’ve been already aware of her own major transition, her separation from her husband. In her vlog, she asked people who have gone through any kind of transition (work, relationship status, financial, etc.) what three things they know now (after the transition) they wished they had known prior to the transition. This was a challenge for me, if only to force myself to think of what I’ve learnt from my own transition (or if indeed I’ve learnt anything at all).
As most of you know by now (assuming you either know me personally or have at least read through the “About Me” section of this page), the most challenging transition I’ve gone through so far is my migration to the
United States from the . And it wasn’t just a simple, ‘no-loose-ends’ kind of migration because it was all unexpected and due to marriage (which makes it a double transition in one!). None of it was expected nor planned so you can imagine the shock every molecule in my being had to experience. As a matter of fact, until now, even after 7 years, some ‘aftershocks’ still shake me every now and then. Philippines
Anyway, after thinking long and hard about my three core lessons, here they are ready and ripe for sharing. I hope you're reading this, Maria...
(1) Remember that you chose this. It was actually one of my best friends that pointed this out to me a few years ago. He noticed that when I spoke of my experience, I tended to say, ‘I was uprooted’, as if to free myself of accountability. I never thought of it that way until he highlighted that I spoke as if I never wanted any of it to happen. That was such a revelation to me because truthfully, even though it feels at times that you were just thrust into this situation and things just happened to you, you need to remind yourself of your accountability in the situation, of the choices you made, your role in shaping this situation. It could be painful to think of it this way but it is also empowering. When situations get bad or at the very least go in the way we never expected or planned for, it is always so tempting to victimize ourselves, release ourselves of any responsibility. But now I know that for most things in our lives, we are ‘agents’, actors, constantly choosing albeit less consciously at times. Nonetheless, we choose. If you were able to choose before, you can always choose again. Who knows where that can lead you?
(2) You need to be clear about who you really are. In a major transition (or maybe any life transition for that matter), expect that a shedding of identities will occur. Certain statuses would have to be given up, surrendered, peeled off of you INEVITABLY. There will always be a temptation to hold on to these things and even force them upon others so that they will continue to recognize us as bearers of those old statuses. In my case, I wanted to hold on to my status as a university professor, an academic or an intellectual for the longest time. I took pride in holding that status. But it no longer made sense considering I was no longer doing any of my previous roles as an academic. The dissonance occurred when I found myself still wanting others to define me according to my previous status/es but of course no one would. It was becoming painful as I knew it was not possible, nor justified. For a time, I had an attitude of "don't-you-know-who-I-am/was", until I realized that it simply did not matter. If something were true, it cannot be hidden even in the absence of declarations. It will just be. It just is. My sense of identity, as long as it is clear to me, will naturally seep out of every pore, every breath. And you have to be clear that your identity, who you truly are, is more than just a status, title or label. As long as I'm clear about who I am, no formal title, label or outward recognition by others will ever be as important as my sense of peace in claiming what is truly ME.
(3) As odd as this sounds, to ease your transition, you have to aim for another transition. If you think about it, this is quite basic isn't it? Part of the basic laws of matter states that no two things can occupy the same space at the same time. 'Matter' and 'Energy' are interchangeable. When you have troubles /problems, that is energy and you expend energy dealing with them or thinking about them. So if you're in a transition that seems to make your life a bit less than ideal, one way of coping is to expend energy somewhere else. Try to 'replace' the unpleasant transition with a more pleasant one, something you can plan for and be excited about; something you can have more control over. Set some goals. Engage in new projects, whether it's something as trivial as putting together a scrap book for the past year, or something as major as looking for a new job. Or you can shoot for something in the middle, perhaps, say, establish a blog?
Transitions are anything but easy. They are, after all, about changes, about introducing something new into our lives and this goes against our natural tendency to seek the familiar. In the end, no matter what coping mechanisms we may find in dealing with transitions, the one important thing is to do everything at your own pace. You must respect the process. Just relax and don’t dread the steps that you’d need to take to move forward. As my friend reminded me from long ago, each step only takes you closer to the destination.
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