“Sometimes what you're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.”- Robert Tew
I want you to picture this. You are standing on a mountain, and in front of you is a taller mountain with a prettier view. Between the mountains is 100,000 foot plunge to the bottom, filled with jagged rocks. You know that you need to make it to that other mountain and that the only way for you to do so is to jump—but for some reason, you cannot move.
This is what transition feels like, especially when you have to make huge leaps into new and unexplored territories.
Recently, I found myself in this very position, paralyzed with fear. All I could think about was how I was going to go from being a graduate student to being a real adult, working and living in the real world.
To be completely honest, I wasn't even thinking—I was worrying and putting mounds of pressure on myself to make a move, to act. What's worse is that in times of transition it seems as though you are being truly tested.
Personally, the comfort cocoon I created for myself over my college years unraveled. My friends graduated and left to start their lives. All of a sudden, what used to be continuous social outings changed into monthly check-ins.
I was confused as to how I got here. I would look around, hoping that someone would show up and be a source of entertainment. That never happened and I found myself alone.
At first, I didn't take this as a gift but as a punishment. I wanted to be distracted because if I was, then I wouldn’t have to think about what was coming next. I wouldn’t have to face my greatest fear of being by myself. Luckily, the universe had other plans.
When I first started being alone, my insecurities and doubts came rushing in to keep me company. I was constantly telling myself that I was not worthy, that I was not enough, and that I was not strong enough to make this transition. I doubted my capabilities and everything I'd earned up until that point.
When I would interview for jobs, I'd be interviewing out of fear. I thought the people on the other side of the phone were better than me because they achieved what, at the time, I thought I could not.
I compared myself to others who seemed further along on their life path. I became jealous and angry that I wasn't as far along as them. I resented myself because I believed I had no life experience.
Transition scrambles your life up, both externally and internally. I thought I'd resolved my issue of being alone, yet here I was, mistaking aloneness for loneliness. I thought I was confident and sure about myself, yet here I was, questioning the very foundation I'd built. I slammed into my own mental brick wall and then became idle in moving toward the life I desired.
One day, as I was sitting by my space heater drinking hot chocolate, I thought about what was holding me back—what I didn’t want to admit myself. After doing some self-reflection, I realized there were several things I needed to accept. They are as follows:
1. I was scared.
I wasn’t sure and I am still not sure if what I am jumping to is safe or promising. It's the unknown, but in admitting to myself that I was terrified, I immediately felt lighter because I was no longer wasting time convincing myself that I was not fearful.
2. I don't have everything figured out, and that's okay.
I had to tell myself that transitions don't happen overnight; they happen over days, months, even years. I have plenty of time to discover, to explore, to create, and to decide what my transition will be and how I will get there.
3. I was in the in-between.
In the in-between, you are neither here nor there. You are just in the middle. Think of it as though you are hovering in the space between those two mountains. I used to hate this space, because I wasn't in control. Yet, in all honestly, you are never really in control. In this space, you have to trust—trust yourself, trust the universe.
The beautiful part about the in-between is that it gives you time to make a plan and to execute it. Taking small steps every day proved to me that I was actively moving toward my desired mountain. I designed a plan that was manageable so I wouldn’t become immobilized again. It made the tasks ahead less daunting.
4. My thoughts could be my prison or my wings.
I struggle with this daily and I “fail” at it a lot. It’s hard to erase negative thinking habits and replace them with positive ones. Then, if you add the weight of your insecurities and doubts, it seems like an impossible feat.
What has helped me the most is taking each moment as it comes. In one moment, I can be completely fine. In the next moment, I can be upset about why I am not this or that, what I look like, what I feel like, why I am wrong or right, etc. In those difficult moments, I remind myself to breathe.
I breathe through my loud judgmental voice, and I acknowledge her presence in my head. I then tell myself that no matter what the circumstances, I am loved, I am protected, and I am safe. Sometimes this works and other times it doesn’t. The point is that I don’t have a clear-cut solution to this issue; I take it day by day.
When it comes to appreciating my aloneness, I have gotten into the habit of not inviting anyone over when I am feeling antsy or I feel like I need company to be okay with myself. I sit with that discomfort, and make myself do an activity I can absorb myself in, like coloring, playing Solitaire, or reading. In doing this, I actually spend time with myself, by myself, for myself.
Everyone’s transition isn’t going to look the same, and it isn’t going to bring about the same issues or ideas. Regardless of what yours looks like, remember that change is the only constant and that transition is a part of change. We must embrace our transition even if it is difficult.
In doing so we face ourselves and we acknowledge the areas we need to grow in, the areas where we are strong in, and the areas we didn't even know existed. We help heal ourselves into wholeness so when we do finally decide to make that jump, we are not scared about whether we are going to reach the other side.