“It’s kind of hard to forge a path on your own….without saying, ‘I want to be like this,’ or follow the path that everyone follows. It’s really hard to say, ‘No, I’m not gonna do that’…,” said Deirdre, a thoughtful 40-ish woman who had emerged from the hallowed halls of academia. She went on, “It’s hard to say, ‘this is really what I want. There is no set path.'” In listening I wondered about having the confidence necessary to embark on one’s own path. Is it another of the requirements necessary for transition?
I feel as if I’ve written about hundreds of requirements for transition over the past three years…. A passion. A comfort level with risk. A belief that more is possible. A recognition that your dreams and yours alone are worth pursuing.
Some days these don’t feel tangible enough for me. What about you?
As Deirdre went on I heard reference to courage and uncertainty and sadness. But I also heard about passions and dreams and honesty. Her first real pivot occurred after the negative tone of her academic environment left her with what she described as ‘no other choice.’
Her family and close circle of friends didn’t offer role models. She developed a serious illness. She was numb and ready to go. But where?
Transition like the one Deirdre was experiencing can be triggered by crisis. Over the past year I’ve concluded that all transitions have triggers. But I am unsure about whether the triggers need to be negative.
Do you think crisis is a common denominator for initiating transition?
In researching my book I’ve learned about Erik Erikson, a psychologist who contributed groundbreaking research, starting in the 1950’s, on a person’s life cycle. He developed an eight stage model. In this work, each stage is marked by a “crisis.” Crisis, for Erikson, doesn’t connote “catastrophe but a turning point, a crucial period of increased vulnerability and heightened potential.” (Passages, Gail Sheehy, pg 19, 1974 Penguin Books)
I like his definition for its reference to heightened potential. Not sure where I fall on the vulnerability side.
At a focus group earlier this week one woman piped in, “what if a transition is triggered by a happy event, like if a woman finally divorces her husband after years of a bad marriage?” She smiled meekly at the reference. I wondered if this was her story. She chose not to share any further.
Individual paths? Crisis triggers? Sounds awful doesn’t it?
I remember writing about an interview with former UC Berkley College Dean, Kevin Hicks in Even Artichokes Have Doubts. He said, “Too many seniors march lemming-like towards (consulting & finance) because everyone else seems to be doing it, and it’s the next opportunity for extrinsic validation. If McKinsey says you’re okay, you’re okay.” The journalist responsible for the piece, Marina Keegan, concluded that we seek what “will make us feel like we’re still successful,” instead of choosing a sloppier unchartered course.
If my experience is any example…choosing our own path is uncertain and messy and isolating. But it is also refreshing and empowering and hopeful. Crisis may or may not be a part of the experience.
Transition will begin at the crossroads of possibility for you – and only you. The only real open question is…are you ready to embark on its path?
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