Tag Archives: transition

Transition

This word and I have been getting to know each other very well over the past few years. Transition: n. The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. The Latin prefix trans- means “across,” “beyond,” or “on the opposite side.” When I was teaching English, one huge marker of writing maturity to note was when students were able to transition smoothly between ideas within and among paragraphs. At school right now we talk all the time about how we are helping students transition from 6th to 7th grade, or from 8th grade to high school. In classrooms, experienced educators are aware of a need to budget transition time into lessons and plan how to transition from one activity to the next.

The transition from California to Alaska has been nothing short of an adventure. Last June, when I arrived, my only goal was to get here in one piece and try to stay in one piece while I adjusted mentally to leaving life in California behind. That turned out to be about as hard as I expected it to be, as it became very clear exactly how many miles I was from my best friends (excepting Husband, of course) and my family. We had the support of Husband’s parents as we crashed on one side of their house, but last summer still felt like limbo. Going into town regularly to work out at Crossfit Fairbanks was one of the few things that kept me grounded.

As summer faded (transitioned?) into fall, I could feel myself starting to get antsy. Because I hadn’t wanted to job hunt seriously when I initially showed up in Alaska, I started to worry that I had set myself up for a miserably dark, purpose-less first winter. Over time, thankfully, things fell into place, as they have a way of doing. All it took was for me to say to Husband, “I’m afraid I’m going to be bored,” and in a matter of weeks, seemingly, I was back to being in a normal state of busy-ness (which is sometimes better known as being over-committed). Working, coaching, curling, consulting, and more.

In mid-November I thought that I might attempt to harm Husband for bringing me to a place that is so physically demanding. This seasonal transition was abrupt: from a lovely extended fall season, we fell off into a week of 40-below temperatures and rapidly extending darkness. Were it not for curling and a real reason to get out of the house and socialize in the evenings, who knows how we would have survived the looooooong winter season. By early March I thought I was going to lose my mind and promptly planned to take a vacation to see friends in California late in April.

At last it is starting to be summer. They said on the radio yesterday that the official temperature in town was above 70 — yahoo! Today was the last day of this school year, and in about ten days we should be homeowners, barring any unforeseen complications. One would think that I should be relieved and overjoyed about getting closer to this elusive idea of “home” and being more settled. Somewhere under the layers of stress, I do feel those feelings. I am proud of myself for toughing it out this past year, at times very gracefully, and at times in tears. I get that all of those moments are a part of who I am and that they just are — neither good nor bad.

When I contemplate this Next Step, there is the exhilaration of finally renewing our independence and getting to fill a space with our energy, our love, our style. Along with that comes a reality check that we are investing in this location for a little while — who knows for exactly how long — and that is an idea that is still settling with me. I always thought that I’d grow up one day and have a house of my own, though I never pictured it way up here in the 49th state. But here’s what I have come to understand in the past 11 months: me being uncomfortable does not equate to me being unhappy. Being uncomfortable, being pushed outside of the box (whether it’s imagined or real) is often a necessary part of growth. Being unhappy usually has something to do with being afraid (of making a decision, of dealing with something, of not knowing what will come next, of what others think, etc, etc.)

This current time of transition is not easy, and I am working on giving myself the space to think about why. In the meantime, I will keep the following thought in mind, from another quote from Neale Donald Walsch in Conversations with God:

“Know and understand that there will be challenges and difficult times. Don’t try to avoid them. Welcome them. Gratefully. Cultivate the technique of seeing all problems as opportunities. Opportunities to…be, and decide, Who You Really Are.”

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Finding the Daylight

In Alaska, in the midst of winter, it is literally dark. I’m talking about days when there are only 4 to 5 hours of sunlight, and good luck to you if you work inside an office and don’t have windows. Going to work and driving home will happen in darkness, the kind that makes me believe it’s midnight at 5pm. Experts say it is important to take Vitamin D to make up for lack of sun exposure, and lots of people — myself included — have “happy lights” at their desks. I turn on my happy light right when I get to school every morning while I read email, and it shines on my face for 15 minutes and then shuts off. On top of that, January was the coldest month here on record in a long while, and somehow February has arrived warm as can be, groundhogs be damned. Everyone has noted that the days are already noticeably longer, and I actually drive directly west into the sun on my way home from school these days — it is glorious.

I think that living in the dark — whether physically or metaphorically — is beyond difficult. It is easy to start to believe that everything — job, relationship(s), mood, whatever — is part of that dark place. Of course, once we fall into that mindset, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and negativity reaches into every corner of our professional and personal lives.

Everyone told me when we moved that the first winter would be the hardest. That I needed to stay active, and then grin and bear it until the arrival of summer. Everyone worried about me, from family to friends to strangers: “Have you been up here in the winter time?” “Are you worried about getting depressed?” Um, yes, I was worried. I have island blood and brown skin, and this is the palest it has been in the entirety of my existence! But I am also an optimist and a firm believer in the idea that it is possible to “fake it ’til you make it.”

And I’ll be honest: it would be SO easy to be a whiner. To tell Husband that being here is ridiculous. To cry to my family and friends and tell them that I can’t take it. To tell myself that I am unhappy. To believe that the grass is greener in California or any other place that isn’t here. However, since I’m not a whiner and I hate whiners, I decided that I would focus on being me and doing things that I find enjoyable, and then just wait and see. So I’ve taken my job seriously (but not stressfully) and tried to shape it into something that fits my personality and my strengths. I’ve taken on a new sport, two nights a week, and tried to get good at it. I have stayed committed to exercising regularly and using my happy light religiously. I have been blogging for nearly a month. I am part of a book club for the first time. Lo and behold, the physical darkness has passed and I am still in one piece. A decently content piece at that. The light inside me has stayed turned on because I actively willed it, and that has allowed me to start to thrive here, not merely survive.

Similarly, my older sister told me on Friday that she has come across an ideal job opportunity, one that was inspiring just reading about it. I know that her own move and transition to a new city has not always been easy, and I could hear how excited and invigorated she was on the phone. Some daylight for her too, at last.

So I’ve decided that a little bit of darkness is welcome. Not so that we can wallow and pity ourselves, but so that we can really celebrate and appreciate when the light starts peeking out from behind the clouds and lingering a little longer. So that we keep our eyes wide open and let our pupils dilate in order to take in any and all available light, because it’s always there… it just comes in unexpected amounts and different forms sometimes. And to give us a chance to create and spread our own light, without having to wait for the days to catch up.

An afternoon at skiland