It’s that time of year again. Graduation announcements are filling our social media news feeds and showing up in our mailboxes, both virtual and snail. I am among millions of parents who will watch a child don a cap and gown, walk across a stage and receive a certificate embossed with an emblem, their name and official signatures of school leaders. Later, we will raise our glasses and toast our children’s achievements and milestones, with an eye toward their future. Congratulations, Class of 2017! How bright it looks!
Underlying the festivities, of course, will be all kinds of mixed emotions. I’m sure feeling the effects of this new cocktail called “Imminent Empty Nester.” All day every day I feel like I’m on a roller coaster — one minute I’ve got my arms thrown over my head, screaming with excitement, and the next I’m terrified and want to get off the ride immediately and return to the time I was sitting on the grass with him at his 6th grade ice cream social.
Thankfully, casual chats with other moms in my situation provide glimmers of relief as we share in the blended experience of wrapping up one chapter and beginning the next.
If you or someone you know is going through a transition right now fueled by a graduation or some other BLE (big life event), the following ideas may be useful.
#1: Transitions clear the ground for new growth.
I find asking questions can be very helpful. When things are changing, it’s natural to wonder:
- What’s next?
- What is waiting to happen in your life now?
- What new growth is ready to germinate in this season of your life?
- In what ways can you use this time of change to discover your next adventure?
These are questions you can discuss with a friend, a trusted adviser or coach. You could also privately explore them in a journal. Don’t think too hard about what to say — let your thoughts and feelings run freely. It’s amazing what we can discover when we release the need to control the outcome.
#2: Beginnings are exciting, but they can also be full of uncertainty.
A new beginning signifies an ending, a loss, and losing is tough, whether it’s natural or forced. During times of transition, we enter the “red zone” where all manner of strange things seem to occur — we crash our car, forget to turn off the water in the tub, fight more with our loved ones, cry during a Subaru commercial, laugh for no obvious reason until our stomach hurts while unloading the dryer (I’ve heard these things can happen, anyway… :-).
Doubt can become our constant companion, impeding our forward progress. Am I making the right decision? What if this doesn’t work? How will I ever manage without…? Why can’t I get out of this funk?
While the impulse at this point may be to do something — anything — for the sake of “taking action” (which our culture is so fond of promoting as the antidote to all our woes), we can do ourselves a disservice if we act too soon. It’s important to be “in transition” long enough to discover what we need to learn for what lies ahead, as uncomfortable as it may be. We need to allow ourselves time to grieve, mourn, cry — fumble the ball and take a time out. These processes are normal and aid in opening us up to fully embrace the wins awaiting us.
#3: What if we could turn conventional thinking about change on its head (something I’m very fond of doing!) and slow down long enough to embrace the natural times in our lives when things feel totally out of control? What if there was great meaning in experiencing the uncomfortable, the uncertain, the losses? I don’t know about you, but I get worn out sometimes from going, going, going in our 24/7 culture. Maybe transitions are one of Nature’s ways of reminding us that not only is it okay to slow down once in awhile, it’s essential to our overall well being.
My three guests this month on my podcast offer their perspective on change — with tremendous grace and insight.
Will Cuddy — filmmaker, actor, and my next door neighbor — talks about crashing the Toronto Film Festival to connect with a director he admires, and why not getting what you want has tremendous value.
Dana Malstaff, aka “Boss Mom,” shares her struggles with scaling her business after her brand took off much faster than she anticipated (a mixed blessing in so many ways).
Finally, Matt Miller, founder of School Spirit Vending and PYP alum, made his second appearance on the show and added a new layer to the conversation about building a business that makes a difference to families and schools — without sacrificing your life for your business.
If there’s one thing my conversations with PYP guests has taught me, it’s this: no matter how tough life feels when everything is changing, what carries us forward in the end is who we choose to be during challenging times –even if those times are more good than bad.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:
Here’s to your greatness as you face change and ultimately move forward!