I didn’t use to think about transitions in my life. Their value and impact were highlighted for me when I took the Modern Elder Academy Online course. A big focus there was the transitions we go through in life, and the stages of the transitions. The conversations around this opened my eyes to the impact transitions have on our positive aging, and even on our longevity. Let’s explore my observations and thoughts so that you can also have an eye-opening experience.
What are transitions in our lives? Chapter changes. Or, maybe better described, bridges from where we are to where we want to be. Though some bridges take us from where we want to be to where we don’t think we want to be.
The School Years and Beyond
Commonly acknowledged transitions are from elementary school to middle school to high school. Graduating from college or a trade school into our early careers is another. Marriage and childbirth are two other highly celebrated transitions. Divorce is a transition. Retirement used to be a big transition where the man, typically, would be given a gold watch to celebrate his company contributions and good wishes for his later years. As with the retirement transition, the other bridges or milestones are often celebrated. Celebrations are good!
A transition that some try to avoid and others cherish is birthdays. I used to think everyone cherished birthdays — celebrating them and appreciating that they have another year of wisdom built up — because that’s how I’ve always felt. Working on clients with transitions to their later years revealed that some dread birthdays as if it was evidence of a countdown to decrepitude. Which side of that transition do you fall: avoid or cherish? What if you looked at the transition less as a “getting older” chapter and more as a celebration of another year of learning, growth, and skills development chapter — one that you closed successfully? With this viewpoint, I think I’ll appreciate my birthdays that much more! Could you start to enjoy and cherish birthdays from that perspective? Could you embrace your birthday celebrations with that mindset?
Why There Are More Transitions Today
We were prepared for many of our transitions and celebrations. We look forward to many of them. The well-known transitions were an important part of our life, and may still be for many of us. And now there are more transitions in life than ever. Why? Because we are living longer, which introduces more transition opportunities.
Each chapter of our life denotes a time of learning new things, elevating our knowledge, developing new skills, and reaching new milestones in education and maturation. Those are important times in our lives and why celebration was so important. Because these chapters were well marked and acknowledged, we all came to anticipate our own chapters with glee, and we looked forward to their respective celebrations.
What about the other chapters with transitions, the new chapters and transitions, in our lives? Surprise changes or opportunities — the extra time in our lives — are happening because we are living longer and times are changing. The COVID pandemic and longer lives are bringing all kinds of surprises — and bridges to cross.
The Lengthening Middle
The extra time brought on by longer lives isn’t tacked onto the end of our years, it’s inserted into the middle. Some people call this time “middlescence”. It’s a time for new careers, new learning, new skills development. Note that — it’s a time for “new”.
The “middlescence” transition puts most of us in unchartered waters. How do we navigate this time in our lives? We don’t have role models for it, and have had little opportunity to watch others work or evolve through it. What do the new transitions look like, and at what time do we expect them?
We are seeing businesses close and people losing jobs — or giving up jobs in the Great Resignation. With the pandemic, we’re more likely to see people we know getting sick and dying, people who seemed healthy and is if they could live out their normal life span. People are moving to the suburbs and the country for a different life. All of these are big transitions, transitions that people were mostly not anticipating or prepared for.
Seizing the Opportunity
I mentioned the big, in-the-middle-of-life transition as being for “new”. That’s the clue as to what you can expect from this time in your life. What a great opportunity to develop new skills, new interests, learn new things, go new places, and take on new careers! Curiosity will lead you through all this newness you are facing. And face it you must.
Why must you? Well, because when you face your life you stay in charge of what’s coming, you stay in control. If you don’t face it, if you bury your head or turn your back on what’s coming, you’ll be caught off guard and lose control and be blindsided by what’s coming. That’s no way to live your life. Keep Curiosity strong in your mind and way of life and help shape the territory you landed in when you crossed that bridge when you transitioned from your known stage of life.
One way to enjoy this new stage — and all of your transitions — aside from applying a liberal dose of Curiosity, is to celebrate your wins. Be sure to celebrate both big and small wins: small wins are still wins! Celebration adds joy, and that adds energy to your life. That joy and energy are contagious and the people around you will have more fun, too.
The transitions you are experiencing may initially be a shock to you. Let me urge you to turn to face the possibilities. Stay in control. Don’t see the transitions as challenges, see them as opportunities. Enjoy a change of emotion with the change of attitude. Transitions can lead to wonderful adventures — the spice of life.