What People Don’t Tell You About Life Transitions

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Kelsey Baum

It was a classic rainy day in October: gray skies were overhead, steady droplets of water were bouncing off the pavement, and that distinct autumn chill was blowing through the changing leaves. Sitting in a cozy coffee shop, I reflected on how picturesque this scene could be to an onlooker. How my life could look like it fit into one definitive box; the simple girl in the coffee shop busy at her laptop. More often than not, I find myself wishing that things could be that simple.

Like the fall season, my life has been in transition for some time now. Moving home after college graduation is enough to throw anyone out of sorts, but a large part of me thought that I would surpass that period of time and have my life “figured out” by now. I thought that because I did all the “right things” in school, I would be granted immunity from these feelings of uncertainty, helplessness, and confusion, but they have not failed to show up at my doorstep each day.

During this time, the hardest thing I’ve grappled with is the feeling like I have to be happy and productive all the time, or else I’m wasting my life away. “You’re so young, enjoy your time off,” well-intentioned friends and family tell me, “now is the time to do something crazy!” I find myself constantly searching for the one “thing” that will be the missing puzzle piece to my sense of contentment — will it happen when I finally secure that dream job? Or when I move across the country to a new location? Or would it come quicker if I did something big, like traveling across the world or considering graduate school?

The truth is, all of these ideas would serve as a temporary fix of some sort. The transition would still be there, but it would just be hidden underneath a pretty bow and fancy wrapping paper. More often than not, we want to adopt the thing that society deems most “acceptable” into our lives because we think that it will rectify what we’re really going through without having to actually process it.

What people don’t tell you about life transitions is that they can truly suck — and I’m not trying to be pessimistic, but just completely honest. Not every single part of life is going to be glamorous, but we seem to forget that because we’re constantly exposed to perfection in all its forms: flawless Instagram feeds, self-enhancing small talk, and these hand-selected boxes that we convince ourselves we belong in. Celebrating positive moments is great, but what happens when life takes a hard left turn and we find ourselves in the midst of an existential crisis?

In my case, I’m experiencing the post-grad transition phase. But, as much as I personally don’t like to recognize it, change is a big part of life, and it doesn’t stop here. I’m starting to realize that the only way to get better at transitioning into new phases of life is to just accept them for what they are — even though I so desperately want to rush into simpler times that would be much easier to explain to family friends that I bump into at the grocery store.

So, what can you do to start combating these negative feelings head-on? Start by being honest with yourself, first and foremost. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re going through a tough time, and that honesty will allow you to start the acceptance process. Be as vulnerable as you can with family and friends, and when people close to you ask you how you’re doing, really answer them, and don’t push your feelings under the rug.

Open up to people who may be experiencing the same feelings, and you’ll most likely discover a gold mine of shared connections. You’re not the first person to feel the way you’re feeling, and you won’t be the last either, so try to use your experiences to help others who may also be struggling. This will help to restore a sense of purpose within you.

Life is like a work of art; it’s not about waiting to celebrate the finished product, but rather finding joy within the messy, unpredictable, and imperfect process of it all.

It’s hard not to compare yourself with those around you that seem like they have things “all figured out.” I don’t like to admit that I sometimes get jealous of certain people in my position — whether they be my friends who are living their picture-perfect post-grad lives in new cities, LinkedIn connections who are getting promoted, or even my underclassmen friends that have a sense of stability and routine in their school schedules. I am genuinely happy for all of my friends successes, but I realize that my jealousy can stem from a place of insecurity and uncertainty on my own behalf. What I do to rid myself of these feelings is tell myself that their successes are not my shortcomings, and just because my life doesn’t match up with theirs doesn’t mean that it isn’t on track to becoming amazing.

This quote particularly says it best:

A beautiful quote by Morgan Harper Nichols.

We tell ourselves that just because our lives don’t look just like theirs, that we should feel inferior. But it’s truly all about perception, and when you can take a step back from what you think you should be doing and tap into what you truly want to be doing, you’ll realize that there was never a competition in the first place.

What people don’t tell you about transitions is that they can be hard, they can be scary, and they can quite frankly make you question your entire life. Just because people gloss over the realities of these life changes doesn’t make them any less significant. If your life is changing in some way, what you’ll soon realize is that the outcome will undoubtedly lead you to a brighter place — like spring flowers in full bloom. You will get there. But, for now, try to find a sense of beauty in the uncertainty. Hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet as you walk down the sidewalk. Find the joy of sitting in a warm coffee shop on a chilly, rainy day.

As much as I wanted to be that simple girl in the coffee shop, typing on her laptop, life all figured out — I realize I’m not. I’m multi-dimensional, constantly pensive, and veering off the beaten path. But maybe that’s who I was meant to be all along. Maybe accepting imperfection is what is necessary for me to move forward after all.

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