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When You’re In Transition: Being Patient and Accepting Uncertainty

“Fear, uncertainty, and discomfort are your compasses toward growth.” ~Celestine Chua

Change is never easy, yet it’s always around us. Sometimes it hits us over the head (if you experience divorce, a career change, a move, or a loss of a loved one). Other times, it’s hiding around the next corner. And most of the time, it’s happening even we don’t even know it.

My father firmly believed in the adage the only constant is change. Myself, however, I avoided change as much as I could because I didn’t want to deal with uncertainty.

After a well-scheduled high school experience, I applied early to college and graduate school just to be sure I knew my futureThat worked well for a little bit. Until it didn’t. Until I realized that these decisions kept me from understanding that I was completely terrified of not knowing what to do next. That all of my early acceptances were actually holding me back from discovering what I really want.

After completing graduate school, I took my first pause, not knowing which direction I was headed in. To be honest, a pause is a kind word. It could also have been called a bit of a breakdown or simply the hard realization that life is a series of transitions and rarely “just planned out.”

A few years down the road, I found myself in another career and personal transition. I noticed I wanted to cling to something again to avoid uncertainty. After pouring through more graduate school websites and clinging to the idea that finding certain work was the answer, I realized I needed time to be in transition, even though it terrified me.

I needed time to heal and time to just be. Because that idea of being in transition made me quite uncomfortable, I knew I needed to sit with it, find my way through it, and finally become friends and a little more comfortable with transitions.

I once heard that the only way out is through. There are no short cuts. In order to hang (or some days, wallow) in and through the transition, I learned a few tools along the way:

Break the cycle of caring what other people think.

For a while, I hated when acquaintances and former colleagues would ask, “What are you doing now?” I would cower under that question and try to invent answers that would be sure to impress them, such as “I am learning astrophysics” or “becoming a ballet dancer” (both utterly and completely untrue).

On the whole, our society is fixated on success and we are rarely encouraged to take time “out.” Once I stopped judging myself, people’s questions seemed a lot less important to me and I was able to relax into my transition a little more.

Learn to just hang out. Wherever it is you are.

Take a day. An hour. A lunch break. Stop with the planning and action-stepping and self-help reading and just chill. Don’t check e-mail. Don’t look for a solution. Turn it off. Whatever it is. It will still be there. Just take a pause and breathe. Because then the real pauses will feel a lot easier and familiar.

Be cool with the idea that there is no quick fix.

While looking for the next opportunity (personal or professional), it can be tempting to say yes to something just to end the search.

A friend of mine used to encourage her other friends to date “the second-best-guy” and to just take any job. That didn’t work for me. At all. The times I tried that left me right back at square one, even more discouraged.

The real thing takes time to find. The real thing is worth waiting for. The real thing is why we left whatever wasn’t working in the first place.

Do things that keep you centered and grounded.

It can be overwhelming to be in transition. It can be hard to make a simple decision sometimes. And it can be oh-so-tempting to self-medicate. Instead of obsessing over writing a resume or an e-mail or wasting time on Facebook, take a walk. Or sing a song or bake a chocolate cake. Or read a book or sing really loudly in the shower. Or do whatever it is that makes you feel centered. Do it every day. Commit to it.

I may not be exactly where I want to be, but I am feeling closer to it every day and am beginning to welcome transitions, because as their words says, they help us transition to the place we want to be.

Once we can soften into the transition and take the time—which is a gift—to relax into them, they can soon evolve into a place of respite, a place that is ripe with possibilities and excitement, a place that holds the space for us to become even stronger.

About Molly Ritvo

Molly Ritvo is a writer living in Burlington, VT. She loves to be outside, practicing yoga, travelling to peaceful places, cooking, and spending time with her loved ones. She is currently embarking on a new career chapter.

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  • Kojiberry

    We are at exactly the same situation! After leaving a job I didn’t like, I am now trying to find where I should go. It is very tempting to say yes to any offer that came, but I remember how exhausted, lonely, and stressed out I was when I did the job that does not fit me. Thank you for sharing, it is great to know that I am not alone. Indeed, doing anything that makes me feel cpnnected is better than the frustration from job searching. I returned to my hobbies, doing sport, yoga, meditation, and starting small projects – things I never had time for when I was working and finishing grad school.

    Thanks again and enjoy the opportunity you have in finding yourself. Love, Kojiberry

  • “For a while, I hated when acquaintances and former colleagues would ask, “What are you doing now?” I would cower under that question …”
    I love this. I myself am in my own transitional period and it has been a few years of this and it’s taken about 2 of those years to finally begin accepting and welcoming this phase in my life- to appreciate what I have and live in the present without stressing so much about the indefinite future. Definitely inspired me today! Thank you.

  • lrm710

    this is easier said than done. I’m facing a recent job layoff.. and I’m a type A personality; very focused on goal achievement. Not to mention that I live in a very expensive cost-of-living area. It’s all well and good to “chill” and “accept the down time” but WHO is paying the rent?

  • chrismichel

    ditto Kojiberry!!! same exact place over here!!

  • Jessy

    This hits home. I feel Like I’ve been in a transition phase for a couple years or more now. My everyday, main job won’t fully hire me (I’m a temp) even though they keep saying they wish they could. My nontraditional, studying/path for my ideal career goes up and down because there isn’t a lot of demand for those types of classes by me. My romantic relationship is growing and we’re taking that next step where we really do need to have a place of our own. All that is connected to one another and effected by one another, so sometimes it is vicious cycle of things and not moving forward by leaps and bounds. But I keep trying to educate myself, even if it means having to only take a class or two every year, studying in private (immediate family isn’t exactly open or supportive), take whatever my temp work gives me, getting a thing here or there for my future home. I know all of that adds up, that even small steps are improvements to the life I want.

  • Johanna_Galt

    Thank you. I really needed this today.

  • Danielle

    I loved this… Very timely for me. Thank you!

  • Tony Zipple

    Good piece. Change is not hard or frightening. If you won $50,000,000 in the lottery it would create changes but you could probably adjust to the prospect! What we fear is loss, not change. Learning to live with the prospect of loss allows us to see the opportunities for gain. And in big changes, we usually need to deal with both losses and gains… just like in the rest of life!

  • JanetTotten

    I am so sorry to hear this. I was “downsized” twice while I was a single parent and can feel your pain. The best approach is to take as much control as you can which I am sure you are doing 😉 Other than that, you do need to let go. Worrying day and night will not help improve your situation. I know it is hard. Good luck to you.

  • Dan TheMan

    I am uncertain of the future but certain it is coming.

  • Anand Satyam

    I am also in a transition period. It’s funny how I sent some of my close friends an email recently sharing a track called transition talking about exactly this. They are also in a transition.

    I love it! I love being able to redefine myself and finally finding the courage to go for what my heart tells me to go.

    It is difficult to “fight” with self doubt and confusing thoughts though..
    Just by writing this I realize that fighting is not the answer but to make friends with them 🙂

    Thank you for your writing. It makes it so much easier to know there are others going through similar experiences. And helps me to cool and accept that things will unfold the way they are supposed to.

  • Marvel Gumshoe

    And I needed this today.

  • Good advice- I’ve been in transition for a few months. The temptation is for me to worry, but that accomplishes nothing.

  • Anna

    This post was very poignant to me today. Our foster daughter of four years was moved on to another placement a few days ago against her and our wishes. So I am coming to terms with the fact that I have been her mother figure for four years and had committed to that until she was an adult….and now a quiet house. This is a big one, swiped me off my feet sideways. So what is left? Me feeling like I have been trampled all over. Feeling ungenerous of heart and want to put barriers up all around me to protect myself. But if I do, I know that I will be living a half life and it will take me further away from myself, who I really am and what I was put here to do. So in-between crying, feeling angry I take solace in the fact that it hasn’t all been for nothing; that she will take with her the love and experiences we were able to give her. I give myself the gift of some time out as we adapt and then maybe we will be ready to open our hearts again and move forward. I wish I could hurry the process but know that this isn’t possible. I hope I don’t drive my husband demented as he catches me crying again at regular intervals through out the day and finding me striping wall paper off the walls and embarking on giving the bathroom a make over the next minute.

  • I absolutely needed to read this article today! What fantastic timing. I’m currently going through a transition period and it’s pretty strange for me because I’ve always been on track, I always had a plan, even if it was just consistency. Right now, I’m not sure what is next. At first, I felt pressure to explain ‘oh well, I think I am going (fill in the blank)’ next – but I was just sort of verbalizing my options, more than making actual plans. The truth is that I needed this time to work out some stuff in my life and I think we live in a culture where that is discouraged. We’re expected to always be rushing, multi-tasking, thinking ahead etc….I also run into the problem where some friends or relatives encourage me to settle in life and it’s frustrating. It’s almost like they prefer me to stay in their comfort zone, rather than stepping out of my own.

  • Lindsay

    Thank you so so so much for sharing this. This is exactly what I needed to hear right now and I know so many people that will love to hear this as well.

  • Dave

    Well Molly is currently unemployed, this type of advice makes sense from a nomad

  • Mynameisjulie

    I am in the same situation… I was told that I was being let go due to 2014 budget projections, and now I have two weeks to “find” another job. But, worrying and making myself sick isn’t going to help me land something sooner. So I have to live my life and hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and know the man upstairs has a plan.

  • cailinbroga

    I have to agree with Irm710 – this is not so easy when you have financial commitments… I went for the transition, took time out, pursued my passions and believed the universe would throw up some opening somehow, that wasn’t in the career I had been in all of my life… a while later I found myself back in the old job, but in a much more difficult environment, because nothing else did come up and I couldn’t pay the rent. It’s a nice idea but for many of us it just isn’t a viable option due to financial commitments. Glad it worked out for you though!

  • I love this tip the most: Learn to just hang out, wherever it is you are. When we are in a transition, we kinda seek a lot of information… thanks to the internet there are A LOT of resources… but sometimes its just good to stop reading and just relax. Too much info can be overwhelming. it’s good to unplug, enjoy a cuppa and know that it’s gonna be OK!

  • activist09

    In a world full of constant change, we are always aware of what’s going on and what we think about it. These thoughts give us a sense of who we are in relation to what we are aware of. This documentary reveals that awareness itself is not what you think.

    www (dot) cultureunplugged (dot) com/documentary/watch-online/play/50240

  • SONJA MOORE

    I am on the verge of tears reading this because I HATE HATE HATE change (I like that you use the word “transition”). I feel like I did everything “right”…I did what I was “supposed to do” to achieve the so-called American Dream, but I am/have been utterly disappointed with life and where I ended up in it. I look around and see others who dropped out or never even made an attempt to goto college or grad school or ANY kind of formal training at all and they are thriving while I am struggling. I ask why all the time and while I am struggling daily with being more positive I do have moments where it’s really difficult. Thank you for your honesty.

  • SONJA MOORE

    #truth I was downsized as well and while I LOVE my expensive condo I dread the day when I have to pack up and head back to the hood, where you can find nice places but IT’S THE HOOD! I completely understand what you’re saying though

  • Laura Neidig

    Very nice article. I never thought of transition as something to be embraced, but you are correct. There is value in all stages of life I suppose.

  • lukerjack

    This post describes the past 6 months of my life. I’ve taken the time to chill out, which is so difficult to do when the pressure is on, and it’s made my life refreshing. If the world around us is changing, it makes sense that I would need to recognize it for what it is NOW, not what it was last week. Thanks for the reminder!

  • iK way

    Thanks for a good read. Patience is very important in any situation.

    http://concurrentmusingsofahumanbeing.blogspot.com/2012/08/automation-or-jugaad-or-innovation-or.html

  • Abhinandan Singh

    I have read some of your comments. you write some real meaningful things 🙂

  • Joss

    I think I feel similarly. I also felt I was “doing it correctly.” I was, in a way, a “golden boy” whose future looked bright. And for a while, that is how the story was unfolding. But slowly, disappointment and disillusionment set in, and some chances I took put me in a spot where now I’m struggling. I seem to be in a much lower place now than many who don’t have the credentials or seem to have put the effort. I seemed to have been an example to follow, now it seems I have become an example of what not to do. But well, this seems to point to an enlarged ego that I was not aware of, and to a loss of humility and faith.

  • This post is very relevant to me right now. I’m still reeling and recovering from a break up at Christmas, which resulted in me moving to a different area too. And last year the career path I’d chosen to ‘sort my life out’ diverted me back to square one. My life feels like endless transitions. I’m a well-educated, hard-working, dare I say nice person. But the decisions I have made have not got me where I hoped I’d be. I don’t want to care about what other people think, but it’s hard not to feel left behind as an under-achiever, and it requires me to change what I think about myself too. I agree that it pays to take time out (especially from technology and all its bury-your-head-in-the-sand distractions) and choose my next steps more carefully, but I need to ACT positively soon too. Otherwise I’ll end up repeating the same mistakes, which are stumbling into the next job or relationship that fall into my path without assessing whether they’re actually right for me. Thanks for the post; good food for thought.

  • edi

    I agree with you, it is easy to say but very difficult to do when you have responsibilities.

  • SONJA MOORE

    Joss I completely understand…especially your last sentence.

  • Awww, well why thank you! Just like everyone here at Tiny Buddha I have a head full of thoughts from my personal experiences I like to share. 🙂

  • Lucy Roleff

    so relevant. thank you!

  • Goran

    Nothing to do with this excellent text but, is this photo taken on Pag island in Croatia? 🙂

  • disqus_5SQ59xwuJi

    This article really made me smile and well up a he same time. I’m struggling my way through month 7 of depersonalization/derealization disorder, which is really a state of mind more than anything. It’s just a tough one to shake, and I almost couldn’t live anymore thinking of it as an end result instead of a transition. I took the Void as an escape route, only to learn there is no escape and now I must pass through the Void and come out the other side. I have stopped mourning for the past and there was a lot of great reminders in here of how I should be spending my time. I can’t fight myself forever. Thankyou, peace and love.

  • May

    Thank you very much for your kind words. I have been in transition for a while and I’ve been in constant denial. I couldn’t understand why I kept feeling hurt and defeated, but your post has provided me with some clarity. Thank you and may the light shine even brighter for you!

  • A. Irie

    My words escape me right now, but thank you for writing this. It is lovely to see that a community of people can relate to the pain I feel right now, and are trying to learn the same universal lesson.

  • Natasha

    I feel exactly the same Michelle, i have always had a plan, knew what i want and went for it! Now i have no idea where to go or what to do. Its hard. I hope new beginnings are coming soon, im in a grey area and need out of it!

  • Me too! Good luck!

  • Ellen Baker

    This is a very good post. I was led to believe by many that being in transition was a stupid, poor, and lazy decision and I’ve been desperate to get out of it just so I could escape being in the wrong.

    But now I know I’m not in the wrong. It’s been a few years since I finished my education and I still don’t know what to do with myself. Everyone around me is disappointment, but at least, I am reassured that I will get to the right place some day, however slowly I may go.