“You kept saying that you ‘didn’t want to go’ but you kept walking backwards so I didn’t stop you,” said an affable guide during a debrief session about my performance. The event in question was rappelling down a sheer rock face during a 10-day Mountaineering Course with Colorado Outward Bound. Did I mention that I had never camped before?
Once I dropped over the edge of the cliff I remember being barely able to see the rock 2 or 3 feet from my face…the distance from my hip to my ankle. For those who haven’t rappelled; your body operates at a right angle bent at the hip as if you were sitting on the floor with your legs out straight in front of you. You simply walk backwards in this sitting position down the face of the wall. Why couldn’t I see? Tears were streaming down my face distorting even that which was right in front of me.
In hindsight this moment is a good precursor to my later transition mode; even in the face of gripping fear I keep going. Do you?
In addition to a few other terror-filled moments from that trip I remember one exchange quite clearly. It was the first night. We were sitting in a circle introducing ourselves. While I don’t recall my exact words whatever I said allowed the group to conclude that I was searching. Somehow I had indicated a gap between my current state and my dream. This was 20 years ago; I was on a self-imposed ‘cleanse’ after graduating from HBS. Upon my return from the mountains I was off to a highly sought after job in management consulting. A gap?
“If I spend the next decade accruing great wealth I wouldn’t feel as if I’d achieved anything,” I said to the surprise of my host. I was at the University Club in New York City having lunch with a board member of my former employer shortly after my transition began 2 years ago. My host who had collaborated with me for much of the previous five years seemed pleasantly surprised by my idealism. I, on the other hand, was moderately shocked by my simplicity and honesty. While I had processed these thoughts I had never articulated them it quite that fashion.
This post marks the beginning of my second year hosting Novofemina. To celebrate I re-read the entire blog this past week. Today I had hoped to share with you my summary learnings. Truth be told, they’re not ready for prime time. Novofemina’s birthday celebration will likely extend through this month. My sister has always used that approach for her birthdays. Maybe she’s onto something….
After a year of writing I’ve learned an enormous amount about transition. As I look at Outward Bound versus the University Club, I ask, ‘did it take me twenty years to gain the confidence to pursue the interests that I’ve had all along?’ Or did it take me twenty years to gain the experience necessary to pursue my dreams?
There have been times when I’ve been my own worst enemy. Ever had that experience? The worst times seem to be those that I’ve shut down so much of who I am to pursue something that I deemed valuable at that moment. As I look forward there are more things on my list that I’m unwilling to trade or defer. This is requiring more of who I am to be present at all times in what I choose to do. So far William Bridges’ Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes is spot on with his observation, “for those willing to pursue a transition, ‘renewal’, ‘revised purp0se’ and ‘energy’ will be the outcome.” (Transitions, Bridges, pg 128)
“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” Mahatma Gandhi.
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