Transitions. Gail Sheehy called them passages. I call them normal. You’d think that transitions as a way of life would feel familiar by now, if not comforting. But I always feel a little restless and uncomfortable during transitions, which, as it happens, seems to be most of the time.
Sure, I had a childhood full of transitions and a fair amount of chaos. We moved nearly every year, and my parents were not in the military. But the refrain that seemed to take residence in my psyche was about finding a better situation, a better city, a better life. And let me tell you, as a kid, this dream did not materialize.
I have been much more stable as an adult, and yet I still have seen so many transitions. Young bride and mother with babies, soccer mom, room mother, 30 something divorcee. My old familiar favorite, skinny girl to fat girl to skinny girl . . . you get the picture. Now I’m a grandmother, and am about to become a college graduate. So maybe my transitions are as much about the non-traditional order of my life events as they are the sheer changeability of my circumstances.
The lessons are still coming. I couldn’t count on marriage or a steady partner, but I can count on myself. That is one of my favorite lessons. I can count on myself. I’m responsible, capable, and enormously flexible when it comes to accommodating change. How about that. I can roll with the punches and land on my feet.
Which will be important to remember as I roll through this next transition. When I finally, finally graduate from college in May, I will transition back into work full time. Only now, it’s not just a job to get by while I figure something else out. Now it needs to be meaningful work. Is that insensitive to write while so many people are out of work? I don’t think so. I’ve earned my stripes. I am truly middle aged, looking at the second half of my life with interest and curiosity, and a determination to make the most of it. I don’t need a sports car and a hot young lover for this mid-life crisis, I just need a way to feel like I matter outside of my role as mother.
That’s not a slam, I wholly believe that mothering is a hugely important, significant vocation. It’s been the best part of my life. But I’ve had other ambitions my entire life. Those ambitions have changed along the way, affected by the lessons I learned in my transitions. But I still have them.
I come from a line of independent women. They held jobs, owned properties, farmed, wrote, created and lived deeply on the earth. They had chickens and gathered their own fresh eggs long before it was chic. They divorced when they had to, married when they wanted to, and lived alone when they pleased. They raised children and raised hell as it seemed necessary. I’m not saying they didn’t make mistakes, but the mistakes were theirs alone.
So while I feel some trepidation because I don’t know what meaningful work I’ll find, or what city I’ll make my home in, I will absolutely have to make a major change. One more big transition. Bring it on.