We’ve started a conversation through establishing Transition Solutions, we’ve been told, about aging, about moving into a new phase of our lives, about downsizing, about where to live, about our health as we grow older and what will be possible when the time comes to leave our memory-filled family homes. All these and related themes will be explored in future blogs as we keep the conversation going. What they all have in common is the essence of transition.
The words milestones and transition are used quite interchangeably now. Milestones were exactly that, stones placed at the side of the road to show the distance in miles to a particular place. Most of us understand it in reference to a child’s development from birth through sitting up, crawling, walking, through to adolescence and beyond. It is seen as a significant event in the development of something. Most definitions of transition emphasise that it is the process by which something changes from one state or condition to another.
I was amused to read of a loan company, which commissioned research in 2015, interviewing 1 600 people aged 16 to 65, on the age by which people ‘should’’ have achieved some milestones. They included events like when you should have moved out of your parents’ home, met someone, became engaged, married, had your first child, taken your first holiday without parents, taken your first holiday with a boyfriend or girlfriend, bought your first house, upgraded to a second, larger house, and bought your first buy-to-let (really!). Then we have the big, sometimes extravagant, milestone birthdays which mark significant birthday years like 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th and so on.
Others have made their own lists of milestones to include events like speaking candidly to a family member about something difficult, getting fired from your job for the first time, hitting rock bottom, falling in love, getting your heart broken, making a best friend, losing your best friend, taking a solo holiday. (Erica Gordon, The 10 most important milestones in your life, August 22 2014 and Locke Hughes, 14 Awesome life milestones people don’t celebrate but should, November 21, 2016)
Major life transitions are anticipated as difficult to live through, hard, perhaps chaotic, a development from the familiar to the personally unfamiliar, always encompassing some elements of change and loss. What is undeniable is that our own response to the transition, our attitude in how we meet it, can have a huge impact on how it affects us. Individual responses to the same event can also be vastly different. Some flow with the loss of a loved one after a long illness but are rendered helpless for months by a minor slight by a friend.
All transitions are perhaps met by even a tiny bit of resistance at first, despite our best intentions, especially if we see them coming. All perhaps have some element of grief attached to them. Sometimes, because we expect it to be difficult from all we have heard or read, we build them up into huge periods of turmoil only to find that the actual event was quite an anticlimax. We’re also ‘told’ how we should respond. We’re expected to follow the usual responses of being overwhelmed, sad, or stressed and are viewed as unfeeling or ‘hard’ if we decide to roll with it.
Whether we regain our balance and reclaim our happiness or become imprisoned by fear and uncertainty after a transition is strongly tied to how we decide to approach the transition. I have come to see that life is a series of transitions, large and small, seen and unseen, occurring with our consent and without, but always providing opportunities for us to meet them with grace and ease and with an eye to a new adventure.
The adventure is often ourselves. We find out more about ourselves, who we are, who we thought we were, we even surprise ourselves. Yes, we grow, are stretched and decide we like how we behaved in the face of something life changing. Self-knowledge is always the outcome. We may think ourselves strong but find ourselves baulking at the smallest thing. Or think ourselves mice, to find we are lions, with a roar to match.
We would love to hear from you about your own transitions or invite you to leave a comment.