Shift happens. Change is constant. We live in a perpetual state of transition.
I don’t like it!
I mean, I do…I really do like things to change. I get bored with doing the same exact routine, seeing the same students, teaching the same lessons, making the same meals, doing the same exercises, day after day after day.
I like to mix things up.
And there it is — I like change when I am the one making the changes, but I don’t appreciate it so much when I am in a shifting situation that someone else has created. For example, in the past six months two of my supervisors have moved into new roles. Hooray for them! They both moved on to positions that better fit their lives, their aspirations, and their skill sets. However, their shift caused a residual shift — shift that affected me.
When my first supervisor left in April, I was shaken. I had been relying heavily on her–the one whose confidence in me exceeded my own; the one who had promoted me because she saw my potential when I couldn’t. When she announced her move to a different role in our company, I was a bit miffed — how could she leave me? I thought she was going to further develop me! However, my being miffed didn’t change the situation. She kept right on walking out the door, and honestly, I applauded her as she went, knowing that she was moving into a role that would better fit her life and multiply her impact among students.
When her replacement arrived, I squared my shoulders and had a conversation with myself that went something like this: “It’s going to be fine. The beginning may be bumpy — initial contact is rarely smooth — but hang in there! Chances are you will work just fine with this new person.” And it was all just fine — in fact, five months later, I remember few, if any bumps with that transition.
However, just a few weeks ago, that supervisor announced that he, too, would be moving on.
I responded in much the same way as I had the first time — “Good for you, but what about me?” He is moving on to a position that will better match his life and his professional desires; I get that. However, his gain is my loss, and I had an emotional response to the uncertainty that would surely come with another transition. I again anticipated some bumps in the road.
I tell myself, “Come on, Kristin, how many transitions have you navigated in your lifetime? Countless? I thought so. Pull yourself together.”
And I have, for the most part, pulled myself together. Our new supervisor has been in our office for one week. We’re getting accustomed to one another. We’re learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I don’t really like this getting to know you phase. I really just want to operate as a well-oiled machine, but as we know, every machine gets bogged down from time to time; it needs to be pulled apart, examined, reassembled, and oiled. We’re in that phase. And I’m trying to be at peace with it all.
To complicate matters, I feel a bit of obligation, being the most senior in age of all of my staff, to model an appropriate and mature approach to transition. (They don’t call me Momma K for nothing.) Yet my emotional responses have been real and sometimes raw. I am not one to front, so those closest to me have seen me struggle a bit. I don’t like that either. So, I’m doing my best to verbally process with them, as moms do when they are trying to walk their kids through difficulty. “Transitions can be bumpy,” I say. “I find myself feeling defensive, so I’m not doing the best at keeping a positive attitude,” I admit. “We’re doing fine. We’re all learning from each other here,” I cheer. “We’re a great team,” I chant.
And for the most part I believe myself, because I’ve been through change so many times. I know we are all going to be fine. I just wish I could get my emotions to believe me, too.
Emotions don’t always get the big picture. They cry out, “Danger! Unfamiliar territory! Proceed with caution! Bumps Ahead! I won’t let you hurt me! I was here first!”
So I climb out on the ledge where my emotions stand trembling, looking down at the rocks below. Together we take a good long look at where they are headed; I grab their hand and gently talk them back into the building. “I know you are scared. You are feeling a bit insecure. It’s going to be ok. You are ok. It’s going to get better. We’ve been through this before. Remember? It was ok then; it’s going to be ok now.”
And for a while we are ok. I smile. I do my job. I encourage my students and coworkers. And then something happens that triggers my emotions to walk back toward the exit, and we start the cycle all over again.
I’m at my mom’s right now; we’ve spent several hours over the last couple of days looking through hundreds of photos. We’ve seen photos of my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces, and children from every stage of life. I have seen the innocent smiles of childhood, the strained poses from difficult times, and the sparkling eyes of age. Some photos take me right back to a moment — I remember the circumstances surrounding the occasion, the call to “say cheese”, and the click of the camera. Some are from times way before my years.
In all of them, today, I see traces of transition.
I saw my grandmother transition from an innocent child making a card for her mother to a young bride unaware of the difficulties life would hold to a mother meticulously caring for her children to a grandmother sitting among those she cherished.
I saw my toddler mother smiling sweetly for a professional photo in a perfectly pressed frock, my adolescent mother in her confirmation dress, my young adult mother in her wedding gown, and my beaming mother in her mother-of-the bride dress.
I saw myself in white blond ponytails for a school photo, in brunette hot curler-ed waves for my college graduation, and in a super short cropped ‘do buried in small children.
All of life is transitioning from one stage to the other. Each stage is full of transitions –in relationships, in school or work, in our bodies. Each year is transition from spring to summer to fall to winter. Each day changes from morning to noon to night.
We’ve all lived through thousands of transitions. So why do I get my shorts in a knot? Why do I wring my hands and pace the floors? Surely this is just one transition among many more that I will face in my life.
Surely as soon as this transition has run its course another will begin.
Change is a given, so as I continue to ride the wave, I will look to the one who stays the same. I will cling to the one who is constant.
I, the Lord, do not change.”Malachi 3:6