It was the year 2002 and I was a recent graduate from my beloved alma mater, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I had successfully completed a four-year degree, felt a whole lot wiser, had a slew of new friends, and was ready to enter the working world all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!
It was a new beginning. A fresh start. I had no idea in what direction I would go, but I knew that I was ready to take on the world and make something of my life!
Then summer kicked in, and the job market wasn’t so plentiful. If you recall, my graduation was in the wake of 9/11, and there was a lot of rebuilding happening at that time, and newly graduated Sociology majors were not in high demand in the job market. I wondered if I’d ever be in high demand, and if there was a company or non-profit that would want what I had to offer.
I plugged away at the job search, spent time adjusting to life back at home with my parents and connected with friends.
But something was missing. I could feel it at a deep level, and I didn’t know just what it was until September rolled around and all of my best buds went back to college for either their last year of school, graduate school or Americorps. I was home alone with no job and very few friends nearby.
That’s when the reality of just how my life was changing and the transition from living within a stone’s throw of my friends and having a jam-packed academic schedule to feeling completely isolated and without direction hit me.
Panic and uncertainty set in and quickly took over my mindset and my awareness. I doubted that I’d ever be a successful adult, I missed college, I missed my friends, I was not sure how to deal with the ups and downs of this new life, nor was I willing to ease into it. I felt like I had to have a job immediately and make a life, or else I was a complete failure, and that was the scariest thought of all!
Me, a college graduate, nothing but a miserable failure at life. A 22 year-old failure. Wow…
I kept those emotions all bottled up and would sometimes angrily lash out at my family and a few choice friends when I felt trapped and most afraid. And although I could not express those feelings appropriately, I knew that this transition was bigger than I was admitting it to be. Separation anxiety with your old life is hell, especially when you considered your old life to be way better than the miserable existence of your present.
Now, in this space of significant transition, I often ponder the past. I look at the 22 year-old version of me, and although much has changed, some parts of her linger in some hidden corner of my subconscious. The major difference now is that I’m fully aware of when she wants to come visit, and I know to not answer the door when she comes a knockin’.
But that doesn’t always stop her from coming through the back door, or an open window. She creeps, and when we meet face-to-face, I have to hold myself back from wanting to punch her for all of those insecurities that were based on fear and not on circumstance, because I’m the one who knows just how it turns out. I’m the one who knows just how much success she gains, and how much love she finds, and how much strength she musters, especially through those times when she felt like she couldn’t even stand on her own two feet.
I’m the one who remembers how she was often tested in fire, and how she never melted, because gold never does. I’m the one who knows just how hard she fought when she feared the obstacles were insurmountable.
I’m the one who is on the other side, now waiting with open arms, for her to calm down and relinquish the past, embrace the present and encourage a future. I know she’s done it before, and this time, in this major life transition, she’s going to have to do it again because standing still doesn’t work for her and it doesn’t work for me.
Not every transition has to be painful or hard, and that is something my 22 year-old self didn’t know. But the 35 year-old self has learned a lot along the way, and being kind and gentle through this transition in my life is something I not only have to acknowledge, but consciously practice. I’m also allowing significant healing of my 22 year-old self to take place, because it doesn’t serve either of us to be as afraid of life as she was.
So in this space, I am reminded that I don’t have to struggle anymore and to be patient and enjoy all of the blessings that around around me, within me and that are me. What we need always finds us, and just being is more than enough to move with grace through each of life’s transitions.