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How To Survive Life’s Transitions

Imagine this, Scene # 1

You wake up late, rush through an already- hectic morning then drive to work. After 30 frustrating minutes, you find a parking spot, pay the parking fee and walk up to the main door of your office building. There’s a group of people huddled by the door, pacing around anxiously, and you wonder what’s up. You shrug to yourself and try keying yourself in but the ID reader turns red. You try again. Nothing. A bulked up security guard shows up and says, “Stand aside, sir. Stand with the group over there.”

That’s when you realize something is wrong.

Very wrong.

Scene # 2

You get out of bed and log onto Facebook. One student on your timelines is asking what easy electives should they take because it’s their final semester, another is asking if anybody wants to buy his textbooks from last semester. It’s been three months since you threw your graduation cap in the air with delight, and it’s only now that you feel nostalgic about university because everybody’s going back to classes.

Except you.

You log onto your online job applications accounts, and check your email and phone but nobody has called yet. You open your linkedin account and your classmates have found good jobs. You try to call one of your friends and he messages, “I’m busy having a lunch meeting. TTYL.”

Only then do you realize; it’s already lunchtime. And your day had just started.

###

I got my first job in an American company 3 months before the 2008 economic collapse. So variations of scene # 1 were the first thing I witnessed as an adult (it was the inability to log onto their computer that hinted to employees they were on The List, though, not the non-working access card). But imagine being fed the idea that all you have to do is “Get a good college degree, get a job and then you’re set for life” then being released to the Real World during 2008.

It was pretty cruel; makes you wonder if your whole life was a lie.

As much as we dislike it, change is inevitable. As engineers like to say, the main k in life is delta*. Tweet this

Transition phases seem to be the highlight these last couple of years. Maybe like the guy in the first scene you find yourself being heralded to HR one day to be thanked for your services. Maybe you’ve just graduated and are looking for a job. Maybe you’re moving to a new city, a new country, a new continent (or all the above).

How do you develop the resilience to deal with such a transition phase?

There’s no shame in crawling into a corner and crying. Admitting to yourself that life is difficult during moments of adversity is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of self-awareness. Since the only way out is through, the first step through is admitting how tortuous and uncertain the path ahead is going to be. So allow yourself to go through the entire range of emotions that accompany such difficult moments; frustration, anger, depression…

Once you’re done crying, mentally reframe this transition moment. I like calling it a sabbatical. My friend calls it, “being between jobs.” Someone else might call it, “The pivotal highlight of my future TED-talk.” Whatever phrase you come up with to give you hope that this phase is temporary and is a stepping stone to something better, write it down on a notecard and tape it to your mirror.

As discussed in “why we have to struggle for every little thing in our lives?” struggles and challenges build your character and resilience. Transition phases are usually peppered with moments of struggle; moving back in with parents, loss of self-esteem, facing letters of rejection over and over again. But such phases can be fertile ground for growth if we use them properly. So remember that what’s important is not how many times you’ve fallen, but how many times you’ve gotten up.

Be careful of who you let into your life at this stage. You’re pretty sensitive during a transition phase, and what you don’t need are people making you feel like a failure and annihilate your already-broken self-esteem. The moment something happens to you, the world around you will divide into two; #TeamYou #TeamThankGodThey’reNotYou. Keep members of the former group in your life, and avoid the rest like the plague (though from experience, #TeamThankGodThey’reNotYou tend to think you’re the plague so they probably would avoid you first).

What if you can’t tell the difference between the two, because in front of you they’re both “Sorry about what happened and if you need anything…anything at all…”

-Check their history. If the person used to come to you with other people’s troubles and rejoice about them or say things out of jealousy such as, “Yeah, he actually deserves getting fired or losing that because…” then chances are they’ll be talking about you behind your back in the same tone.

-Trust your gut. Sometimes the undercurrent of insincerity is more palpable to your irrational side than to your rational one.

Do not lose your sense of identity.  The problem with us is that we wear our positions/jobs/relationships like some sort of security blanket only to wake up one day and find it grabbed cruelly from us, and we’re left shivering outside in the cold. But the security blanket is not who you are. You’re complete without it.

Engage in activities that keep you grounded. Start from the inside out. Start by unearthing your values, and journaling and reconnecting with the things you’re passionate about. Give yourself a reason to get up everyday when all you want to do is slide deeper under your blanket and wish the world would just go away.

Then get down to business. Fix your CV, make a list of people in your network, update your linkedin, work on polishing your skills, apply for jobs. Or volunteer for a cause you care about. Go out and see people. Or start that passion project you’ve always told yourself you’d start if only you had the time.

Whatever it is, keep your eyes forwards.

You can’t drive with your eyes on the rear-view mirror. Stay hopeful.

And thrive.

“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into autumn — the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.”
―E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

If you’re currently in a transition state, what are your biggest challenges? And how is your attitude? Leave your comments below., tweet me @ahechoes or email at ahechoes@gmail.com.

*okay, maybe I’m the only one who likes to say that. In scientific models, k represents constant and delta represents change.

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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.

Image via pixabay.com

Published inCareerLife LessonsPersonal DevelopmentQuarter-life crisis
  • Wonderful post, Amina. Love how you say it is okay to be sad during these times. The important thing is not to let them crush you. You need to keep moving forward.