‘Tis the season of transitions – endings and beginning, good-byes and hellos. Wrapping up “the school year.” Getting married. Moving. Graduating from college. Celebrating ordinations. Accepting new calls. Starting a new job. Having a baby. The list could go on. Endings and beginnings are all around us this time of the year.
In my life, transitions take the form of a high school and college graduation, preparing to move into a dorm and moving back in with mom and dad, wrapping up another academic year (and a curriculum) and anticipating teaching new classes in September, and wondering what it means to be in my 5th decade of life. (Could that really be true?) It means graduation parties and rediscovering daily routines. (How needs a car today? Is there enough food in the house? Did someone do the laundry?) It means intentional relational time and space to ponder the changes taking place. It means some days are exciting and other days are simply hard. Endings and beginnings are all around us and while they happen all year round, for many, this time of the year moves transitions from the edges of our lives to the center.
Living in the midst of transitions is chaotic, but there are things that are “normal” and there is work to be done. William Bridges reminds us that being tired, confused, and having a sense of “being lost” is all part of what’s normal. Endings require letting go, but letting go means saying good-bye to routines and patterns that order our lives. And letting go is hard, especially when the future is unknown. And even our most anticipated beginnings are accompanied with a sense of melancholy. Bridges reminds us to gives ourselves, and others, a break during times of transition.
But there is work to be done in times of transition. Letting go, releasing the past, is part of that work. Yet letting go does not mean erasing the past. Endings, be they graduations or a relational break-up, are simply markers. These markers are not in themselves good or bad, they just are. They note time and that patterns of the past will not be the patterns of the future. And marking time allows space for rethinking and recalibrating so we have the capacity for moving into something different, something new.
One of the pieces of relational wisdom I’ve shared with youth and young adults is: just because a relationship ends does not mean it wasn’t meaningful and/or was an important part of your life. We grow, we change, and we have new opportunities. Some experiences and friendships fit for a time, do us well for a chapter, or are meaningful for what they are/were. Camp, for example, is a good thing. But camp works because it is an experience bound by time. Living through endings, and saying our good-byes, doesn’t negate what was. In fact doing endings well actually honors what was. Having graduation parties, for example, honors the graduate, but it also recognizes the greater community and is an important part of the process of transition. Graduations (and graduation parties) mark time, allow us to remember what was, and in so doing it prepare us to move into a new future. Without tending to endings, all of the good aspects of what was can be overshadowed with the disorientation that accompanies transition and the fruitful memories of the past can be distorted.
Summers often are accompanied by navigating some type of transition. At our house this summer we are navigating more than normal. And we have moments when it is going well, and other times when it’s not. But we are doing our work – we are celebrating accomplishments and giving each other space to grieve; we are appreciating the little things, like reflective conversations while walking the dog, as we also are recognizing the big changes taking place. We laugh and we cry. We have time alone and enjoy time together.
I’m mindful of those in my circle of friends and colleagues who are in the midst of transition. Some anticipated and celebrated, others forced and disheartening. Today, I hold you in my prayers. May God meet you in your letting go, in your disorientation, and in giving you hope for tomorrow. And may you experience grace and peace, space to be alone and community with which to share the journey.