I’ve been thinking a lot these days and months about transitions. Big and small.
This is because I’ve just made a big one – moving back to NY state after 17 years overseas, 15 of those in the UK. There have been other big ones in my adult life, certainly the move from NY to Europe in 2001 counts as a big one, perhaps rivalling this recent one in some regards.
Thinking about transitions as I’m adjusting to my new life in NY has been interesting. Acknowledging the bigness of this move helped me to cope with the inevitable stress as I prepared. Saying goodbye to friends and colleagues and leaving a country that had been very good to me, where my work had flourished and where I had started my first business, Beyond Conflict Ltd., was emotionally and practically challenging. The energy expended and organizational focus of packing and shipping personal effects across the ocean felt unrelenting at times. And I was sad in realizing the European continent was no longer going to be a ferry boat ride away.
Transitions are scary. With all the planning in the world one is entering the unknown. We all differ in our capacity to deal with risk and uncertainty – sometimes I think I’m adventurous – at other times I’m risk adverse and my vulnerability in the face of the unknown paralyzes me. Over the months leading up to the move I often felt I was reaching forward and simultaneously pulling back.
There are forced transitions and transitions of choice as this one was. I often think of refugees forced to leave their home and country, often a choice but a desperate one, one that severely limits personal choice. As difficult as this move was, I was always aware of the privilege of being able to make a choice and not have it forced on me. Not to mention not having to worry about violence and economic survival.
Our days are full of transitions most of them so small we’re barely aware of them. Transition from sleeping to waking, from the comforts of home to getting ready for the outside world. Transition from an evening or weekend with friends or family to saying goodbye. Leaving the active awake world for sleeping and dreaming – most of us know how hard it is sometimes to go to bed. That is most obvious with young children, so reluctant to leave the exciting world of light, conversation and play for a much-needed good night sleep. One thing that stayed with me as an early childhood teacher decades ago was how transitions during the school day were especially challenging for young children (transitioning from playtime to circle time to snack time for example). Teachers were trained to be on alert for signs of resistance or conflict at transitions times. I’ve become aware of my susceptibility to low level anxiety in anticipation of certain minor transitions. That awareness has helped me handle the transition more smoothly simply by recognizing my internal state.
So, this big transition is done. I’m settled in NY state, albeit just. Reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, meeting new ones, closing the UK business, Beyond Conflict Ltd., and setting up a new one, Restorative Intent. I’m exploring mediation and restorative practices in the Capital district, finding my way around, new trails to hike on, performance centers to fulfil my need for art, dance and theatre. It’s all happening and it’s good. Challenging in lots of ways, exciting and fulfilling in others. I’m glad to be here. And I wonder whether this is the last big one or are there others to follow…? Only time will tell. For the moment I’m glad to be here.