If we pay attention to the changes in our lives, and how they affect us, we can find some kind of beauty in it all - Rebecca Dirnfeld
A moment of reflection
Last March I started this website in an effort to give those dealing with transition, and in particular, career transition, some kind of support. I wasn't sure exactly how the website would unfold, or what the response would be. I just wanted to share transition stories and have a space where others could read them and feel less alone in what they were going through.
My most recent experiences with transition - The good, the bad, the ugly
This year has marked a lot of changes in my own life - both professionally and personally. You know that saying "when it rains, it pours"? That's been my life for the past year. I started a new job in September 2014 at Ryerson University, working with undergraduate students to assist in their career development and transition after graduation. This past 6 months has provided me with so many opportunities to grow as a career educator. I've given presentations, facilitated workshops, run events, provided 1:1 appointments, and attended conferences. This May I will give my first presentation to other career educators at a professional development conference. When it rains good, it pours good.
While all this was going on, life outside of work continued to throw me curve balls, as it always does. My 3 1/2 year relationship ended, my brother was diagnosed with ALS and fell very ill, very quickly, and I turned 30. Now let me clarify, because I don't want you to roll your eyes at the "turning 30" piece. I think there is something to be said about a new phase of life starting at 30. Yet, it dawned on me that at 30, my career path was developing at an accelerated rate while my personal life was breaking apart. Why does this happen in life? I don't have the answer, but when it rains bad, it can also pour bad and ugly.
How to deal
I wasn't sure how I wanted to deal with the good and bad transitions I was experiencing. While I wanted to put all my energy in the good - and my career certainly demands a lot of attention and energy - I knew in my heart I had to pay equal attention to the bad - coming to terms with my brother's illness and the end of my relationship.
What I now realize is that it's not even possible to focus your energy on only one kind of transition because it makes you feel better. If this was the case, I would only try to feel happy, content, fulfilled, excited, motivated, and ambitious; all the things I feel when I think about and engage with my job. While I do feel these emotions daily, I also feel those other emotions. My brother's illness elicits feelings of immense sadness, frustration, anger, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and sometimes hopelessness. These feelings are just as legitimate as the good ones, and I need to continue to acknowledge them. If not, they get buried away, and eventually burn me out.
I've drawn strength and support from a number of resources to help with all of this. My family members, and especially my brother who is ill, have truly amazed me with their ability to calm and reassure. There is so much uncertainty with illness. Yet since being diagnosed with ALS, my brother can still be positive. Can you even imagine there being good feelings in what he is going through? He continues to laugh, love, and smile. My friends, both near and far, have shared their love in all sorts of ways. What has been most comforting to me are those who have reached out unexpectedly, such as old family friends showing up to our front door, or baseball coaches from when we were kids regularly visiting my brother in the hospital.
I don't know. No matter how much I'd like to plan my future, whether it be my career or otherwise, there will always be unexpected curve balls along the way. What I do know is that I can handle them. Having gone through both good and bad transitions at the same time, I realize I CAN DEAL. That means more to me than not knowing what's next. It's incredibly reassuring.
If we pay attention to the changes in our lives, and how they effect us, we can find some kind of beauty in it all. My brother's ALS is not a beautiful thing. It never can be. But feeling his strength and courage while he deals with it is beautiful. Acknowledging I can achieve some semblance of peace of mind during all of this is also beautiful. Feeling the empathy, love, understanding, and support from family, friends, colleagues, and strangers is incredibly beautiful. Knowing that getting to 30 means I survived my twenties might be the most beautiful thing of all!
This has been one year of my life. With so many more to face, I raise a glass to all the contributors and readers of Graduates In Transition who are facing the good, the bad, and the ugly, each and every day. Try to find beauty in it all.
Rebecca is the creator of Graduates In Transition and a Career Consultant at Ryerson University, in Toronto. To get in touch with Rebecca about being a guest blogger or other career advising needs, click here.