Your 9th grade math teacher, who was full of embarrassingly-patterned shirts and sports-themed clichés, stood in front of your class one day and uttered the holy grail of high school geometry. "Kids," he began, "the shortest and most direct distance between two points is a straight line." And like any over-achieving, type A student, you believed him. You went through freshman year thinking that what was true in geometry, must, without a doubt, be true in life.
You began to see your life as a series of Points A and Points B. Before the breakup, after the breakup; high school, college; Grey's Anatomy Season 1, Grey's Anatomy Season 2. And then, you tried to get from Point A to Point B directly, effectively, and in one straight line, only to realize that you really couldn't. The feelings came in waves. Some days were easier than others, and sometimes you felt great hopes and great disappointments in the span of the same minute. Getting from Point A to Point B was more like riding a wave than driving down a straight and narrow path. Your professor's wise words may have been the holy grail of geometry, but your experience demonstrated that they weren't the holy grail of life.
And so began your lifelong realization that the transitions between things, whether it be relationships or seasons of the most addictive show on television, are far from straight, clean and organized. Being in the midst of transition is profoundly human and uncomfortable, not geometric and predictable. You may think that's the bad news. That life would be so much simpler if you could just "get there already." But growth happens in transitions, and how you hold yourself in the middle of change, big or small, is what builds your character. Your teacher lied, and I'm happy to tell you that that's the good news.
Here are some words of wisdom about being in transition: Trust yourself. You can walk in and out of anything and not lose yourself. Walk in strides, one foot in front of the other. Never leave your own side. Learn from the ocean. Watch how it doesn't stress if one wave is bigger than the other. Watch how it's impossible for a wave to crash too early or too late. Watch how it always resolves itself. Learn from children. Observe how they let things go. Their frustrations belong to the moment, their frustrations don't belong to them. When the next experience comes, they leave those old feelings behind and move forward.
Flow. Do, be active, take chances, make changes and then give up doing for a while. Just be. Tend to the uncertainty. It's not scary unless you keep it at arms length. Think of everything that has come out of uncertainty and the unknown: Picasso's greatest works, that guy you met at the coffee shop, a side street you didn't even know existed. Don't follow the fear thoughts. See them, but don't follow them. Here are some of the things that they will tell you: "You need to know what comes next," "You're wasting your time," "You're running out of time," "Everyone else is ahead of you" and "You should have figured this out already." Remember that shame is the false belief that you Should Have Already Mastered Everything. It's a lie. You're alive and going through this for the sole reason that you haven't mastered everything, and thank goodness.
Make space in your life. Give up one thing a day that is just taking up space but doesn't deserve to be there: a discouraging thought about yourself, a relationship no longer serving you, a pair of shoes, that let's be honest, are very last season and just not cute. Don't push, don't force. Allow confusion. Allow disorientation. What you resist, will persist. Embrace mood swings. Remember that a clear sense of purpose will return, or rather you will return to it. Be okay with not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Allow yourself to be surprised when tomorrow is better than you expected. Forgive and love the part of you that wants nothing more than to know what comes next for you. It's human.
Consider that the in-between is just as important as Point A and Point B. Sometimes you believe that the space between things is not life, but it is life. If you look closely enough, you will see that absolutely everything is comprised of the in-between, and that nothing is ever really final -- it is always shifting and transforming. Practice getting still. That is really difficult when you're so uncomfortable and all you want to do is look up more job postings, send more emails, and make more phone calls. But do you want a job, or do you want to be happy? Take a break from figuring life out, and trust that if you open your eyes you will see your next opportunity. And you won't be frantic when it comes.
Take up a hobby. Do something just because it feels good, and not because it will get you anything. Do things badly. Paint a picture of a tree that doesn't look anything like a tree, sing in the shower and be off pitch, cook a soufflé that even you don't really want to taste. Practice seeing your worth even when your product is not successful. Who you are is actually completely separate from what you produce, and that's a relief.
If you let it, this time can be a gift. Jodi Picoult says that "in the space between yes and no, there's a lifetime. It's the difference between the path you walk and the one you leave behind; it's the gap between who you thought you could be and who you really are; its the legroom for the lies you'll tell yourself in the future."
Take that extra legroom. Stretch wide. Make friends with it. No moment is final. No feeling is final. Straight lines between two points just don't exist. And frankly, they're boring. Wherever you are, remember: The best is yet to come.
All my in-transition love,
For more by Liana Gergely, click here.