Road to Transition
We tend to use the word “transition” when it refers to a major life changing moment, something that is highly visible and usually emotional. The fact is that we’re transitioning on a regular basis and each moment is an opportunity for learning and self-reflection. House move, job change, adjustment to your relationship status, even something such as a change in financial situation is a transition, it’s simply a process of change. How did we handle that moment in our lives? Could we have done better? Although smaller transitions may impact us, this is often short lasting – a change in job can feel intense in the moment but isn’t, as standard, a life changing moment. Other situations can have life lasting effects, visible or not.
I’ve had a number of transitioning moments, most of which a lot of others have also experienced and which I have chosen as opposed to them being imposed on me. I got married and had children both of which changed my life permanently. I’ve had house moves, travelled and various job roles. Most of these situations I’ve taken in my stride, probably because they were all changes which I saw as positive. Having children made me braver, wanting to make the world better for them even if it’s only slightly. It’s a constant state of transition as they grow, going from being completely reliant on me for everything to becoming little people with their own thoughts and personalities. As a partner in a marriage, I’ve had to learn to always think about someone else but I also have the biggest supporter I could ever have asked for. These situations haven’t always been easy, in fact having 2 small children was the hardest year of my life but to a large degree it’s up to us how we allow this push out of our comfort zone to affect us. One situation which isn’t shared with as many people but was the most impacting was my time being in and leaving the foster care system.
Within my family, 4 of my siblings had been taken into foster care, 2 permanently. At age 14 I too was placed into the care system. In order to understand how this experience shapes you, it helps to know a bit of the set up. Within the unit I was part of were a number of girls with very different experiences and situations. Some had severe trauma from their childhoods, some had extreme anger issues, one was there due to a parents’ death. However, we were all treated exactly the same, specific schedules, routine and a strong desire to help us survive on the outside as opposed to thrive. No discussions over further education or travel but lessons on how to apply for council housing. Always hanging over you was the threat that if you didn’t fit in and comply that a secure unit would be your only option. Children adapt very quickly, we know this and it often benefits them in many ways. It enables them to live in a situation that differs from what they’re used to but it does have emotional implications. For me, that was shutting down, becoming a people pleaser and emotionally disconnecting as much as possible. It was also the growth of a determination that I could never have imagined and a huge empathy for others.
Self-reflection is a hugely important part of recovery during and after any transition especially when that transition was forced as opposed to being chosen by you. I needed time to recognise that my thought processes and reactions may differ from what’s expected and so it was a great idea to create a safe zone where I can talk openly and honestly and receive feedback from someone I trust. For me this is a couple of specific friends but it can be family or a therapist where you can learn to be aware of, control and express your emotions in a healthy way (your emotional intelligence).
I allow myself to celebrate the small things that others would take for granted. What’s considered a small success at work, not giving into negative thoughts, happy family moments, buying a house, these are all things that statistically I should never have achieved. I’ve learnt to reflect on how I react to moments and why. When a number of redundancies were made in my company, I panicked beyond what was ‘normal’. The rational side of me knew that this was ridiculous but we need to accept that we’re not always rational beings and punishing ourselves for this never allows us to progress. Talking the situation through helped me to see it realistically and instead of internalising it I spoke to my boss about my security within the business and got a bit of a much needed pep talk.
Of course there are still a lot of issues, we’re growing and learning all the time. One thing I’m currently working on is being gentle on myself. Failure when I was younger had huge repercussions and it’s not easy moving on from that mind set, but that’s not realistic and certainly not something I want to pass onto my children. Focussing on using your experiences to help others can enrich your life. For the past year I have been working with girls going through the process of leaving care and it’s been a way to see some good come out of what wasn’t a nice time. By encouraging them to view the positives within themselves and their potential, it’s allowing me to do the same. We always need to remember that although our past experiences shape us, they never determine our outcome.
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