“I’ll probably head to the Caribbean with some friends,” remarked a recent college grad during a quick conversation we had over chips and dip at the graduation party of a mutual friend. Imagine. No responsibilities for a few weeks or a month. Wow! What would you do?
Honestly, his response left me deflated. This grad had been to the Caribbean countless times as a kid. Lucky kid, by the way. “What about backpacking through Europe or Asia?” I asked. His response was funny. It wasn’t exactly dismissive. It is better described as unmoved. Lacking any relevance for him.
I can’t help but wonder if this ‘Caribbean choice’ is representative of our behaviors in transition. Are we limited by assumptions of acceptable destinations? Or fear? Is your transition simply re-booking flights to familiar territory? Are you ready for a destination unknown?
In early April I interviewed a dynamic women as part of Novofemina’s Research Jam. She had spent years as an entrepreneur, including a stint as head of an international trading company. Her transition pivoted her from a series of demanding endeavors to a period that she described as a ‘creative void.’ She shared that it was a period of high discomfort, ‘after all who am I if I am not me.’
Her transition lasted several years although she was active and working part-time during much of that period. She characterized it positively with attributes like ‘energy’ and ‘control’ and ‘relief.’ But negative attributes were present as well. ‘Discomfort.’ ‘Anxiety.’ ‘Nothing good comes without anxiety,’ she shared.
Anxiety. It’s less present now but it’s been a constant throughout my transition. It’s source? I think its rooted in decoupling from the identity I’ve created over the arc of a twenty year career and the accompanying financial uncertainty of this new path.
Long time readers may recall William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes and his sentiment, “changes are driven to reach a goal, but transitions start with letting go of what no longer fits or is adequate to the life stage you are in.” (Transitions, Bridges, pg 128) For those willing to pursue a transition he posits that “renewal”, “revised purp0se” and “energy” will be the outcome. Bridges introduces that in the first phase of “transition” or “ending” we break our connection with the setting in which we have come to know ourselves. (Transitions, Bridges, pg 17)
This transition veteran stood firmly on ‘take the time to get to know people.’ She invests a lot of time networking. Her observation, ‘women are less comfortable picking up the phone to network.’ She lamented that many of the women she meets through networking have a thinly veiled objective…’I’m available, tell me what I should do.’ She contrasted that with men she meets via networking, ‘men want to be tee’d up to talk with folks.’ Do you see the difference?
She recommends a willingness to engage even or especially when the outcome is unknown. For her true value emanates from unexpected connections. She concluded our conversation with an observation on what stops women in transition. Her quick answer, ‘fear.’
Most elements of this woman’s perspective resonated with me. I’ve found that my transition has been more productive since I landed on a self-created identity for my transition. It goes something like, ‘I’m interested in women’s development.’ It’s simple. But it allows me to hang a lot of laundry off the line. It can accommodate a list of experiments currently underway and still engage those I’m speaking with in a conversation about their ideas. These ideas are what make it worthwhile…they stretch my thinking way beyond the Caribbean.
I’ve come to believe that fear and anxiety often stand in the way of women’s transition. When faced with these issues many book a flight to a known destination. Being in transit creates a sense of progress… forward movement? Or not? Which flight will you book?
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