“What a great gift this is,” said a woman from Southern CA referring to my book. “You have so carefully and thoughtfully given voice and structure to an issue that millions of women and some men face throughout their lives.” I was humbled by her remarks. We were debriefing after a seminar I hosted on women and transition. It was the first time that I’d presented to an unfamiliar audience. A truly unbiased test. The generosity and kindness of her words reminded me of the most basic question I always come back to….
Does transition matter?
Before I answer that question let me remind you about why I investigated it in the first place. I found myself at forty-five not knowing the answer to some key questions for the first time in my adult life. Questions like ‘What did I want to do?’ or more importantly, ‘What really mattered to me?’ I had a storied career up until that moment – Harvard MBA, tech start-up ceo, c-suite executive, and mom. The latter was added right around my fortieth birthday – two children within sixteen months of each other.
As my children moved beyond baby carriers the conflicts between my various worlds took on epic proportions. I learned to function – or so I thought – in a state of sustained exhaustion. Thankfully within this operating fog I had an instinct, an instinct that something more was possible for me.
Have you ever felt the same?
At that moment I was racked with emotions. I felt guilty for not working sixty hours a week like my ‘successful’ peers. I was ashamed because I couldn’t answer the question, ‘what’s next for you, Linda?’ I was shocked by the way society wanted to instantly marginalize me. One long time friend’s comment sticks with me. Upon learning that I’d temporarily stepped away from my crazy c-suite existence she said, “You – of all people.”
Distance from those early days – and a fair amount of research – has led me to understand more about the transition triggered by my own unraveling.
- Transition can occur at any age in either gender. A person has the potential to repeatedly transition over the course of their life.
- Even with this potential, transition is widely misunderstood in our society. So too, the skill sets required to navigate it are underdeveloped.
- Without awareness of transition women often interpret the early signals of transition incorrectly. We read them as ‘failure’ instead of ‘growth.’ If left unchecked, this mismatch can lead to feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt – and all sorts of conclusions that can lead us to stall, disengage or retreat from living the lives we imagine.
- An understanding of transition is super important for women. More than 90% of women I surveyed expected to transition again within five years.
Combining this frequency with a lack of awareness and underdeveloped skills – it is no wonder I felt that way I did.
I’ve learned that transition is a process that we choose when faced with the need to change in our lives. Some people choose transition. Many others do not. For those who choose it, transition requires us to re-examine our assumptions about identity, capacity and values.
At its core transition asks us to dignify that which has value and meaning to us. One woman whose transition was triggered by a wrenching personal tragedy summarized her transition with, “I felt as if I could breath for the first time.”
Does transition matter?
I know it does. For me it gave me two perspectives. First, an understanding of transition gave me critical context. It allowed me to interpret what was going on for me. With it I was less buffeted by the emotions. It was a steady anchor – this understanding.
It also gave me a roadmap – a playbook – for unchartered territory. Even though I was walking forward into uncertainty I was less unglued about not knowing. I could trust the process. It offered vocabulary and context and sight lines.
I’ve come to believe that an awareness and understanding of transition is an invaluable gift of strength in an uncertain time.
Where do you stand? Does transition matter?
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Women often interpret the early signals of transition as ‘failure’ instead of ‘growth.’ WOW, that really summed it up for me (and as you know I’ve been following along for a while!). I do believe that just “getting” this message will change how women (and men) perceive their specific situation and the options available to them.
Thanks for your awesome perspective Marla! And thank you for your on-going readership. It is invaluable…Happy to inspire a Wow moment once in a while.