-William Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes
Life is full of changes, for better or for worse. Nothing ever stands still. The current of living enters you at birth, and down the stream you float – sometimes on your back enjoying the view, and sometimes sputtering for air with your face in the water. But you can’t stop the river.
I talked a lot in Day 11 about loss, and the transitions and changes it brings. For me, there have been other transitions that I have looked at a bit more positively, as times when I could literally reinvent myself, lose some old patterns that friends and family relationships locked me into, and start living a more authentic life. I can count three of these in my lifetime thus far – two when I was fairly young, and one much more recently. These are times when anything is possible. They are exciting, a little scary and loaded with potential for good. I remember them all vividly.
The first of those times came when I left home for college. If you knew me in high school, you know that I was a “good girl” by the standards of that day. I got good grades. I made all my curfews. My parents trusted me. I drank (who didn’t with a drinking age of 18?) but I never drove drunk. I did an excellent job of living up to expectations. I also appeared happy, all the time. Most of the time I was happy, but when my long-term boyfriend broke up with me a month before the prom (I was on the prom committee) I was miserable. I remember a day of crying in the choir room. My dear friend Bruce walked in, and said “Robbin, why are you crying? You don’t cry. You’re always happy!” I thought, “My God, really?” I wanted to punch him. I wanted to get out of there. I wanted space to be my authentic self.
I went far away to college, where I knew no one. I didn’t find this scary. College was simply great. Being hours away from home for the first time, having freedom to do things that I wanted for myself, dating wonderful boys who did not live up to parental expectations – it was all quite freeing and I saw it as an opportunity to re-invent myself. Hey, I could be a person with real feelings! I worked very hard to lose my habit of always responding with a smile. I made real and genuine friends. I allowed myself to experiment with all the things I felt I could never do at home, and picked and chose which ones suited me. I grew.
As time went on in Indiana, however, different habitual behaviors slowly crept in. I discovered a very bitchy side of my self I didn’t particularly like, but had a hard time controlling. I tried hard to change someone else I loved dearly without working on changing myself, and broke both our hearts in the process. I didn’t really have a whole lot more self-knowledge than I had in high school, although I was figuring out what I stood for in the world. At the end of those 4 years of learning and growing and heartbreak and understanding my place in the world, I was ready to leave for my next adventure.
During my Master’s program in California, I was so busy keeping up with all the experienced teachers around me that I spent little time on self-development. It was an intense year of learning academically and not taking very good care of myself. Then came the call with a job offer in Baltimore, and “Reinvent Robbin - Round 2” began.
Once again, I moved to a place where I knew no one. I had the chance to establish a professional identity for myself for the first time. I let go of college habits that no longer served me, like partying early and often. I also let go of my piano practice habit for the first time in my life. Wow. I could go to work, come home and not play piano. That was very freeing as well. I found Contra Dance, Morris Dance and English Dance. I had not seen myself as a dancer since ballet lessons as a child. I discovered that I loved dance, and I was good at it. My new hobby firmly established itself and I grew to be a mainstay of the folk community. I married. I had a child. I stayed in my same job for 25 years, where by the end I didn’t even need to write new lesson plans – I just used the ones from the years before. I’ve talked a lot about this time in my life and have little to add, other than as a result of the years of counseling I sought, my spiritual community and my discovery of Alexander Technique, I started to become my most authentic self. By the time I met Dave Marcus, I knew who I was, what I liked, and how I wanted to be in the world. Moving to Atlanta, Georgia was never in my plans, and neither was getting married again.
Well, people make plans, and God laughs.
Reinvention #3! Yesterday I talked about all the transitions I went through at this time – I wrapped up my job, my daughter went off to college, I was Family Week Director for CDSS at Pinewoods, I planned a wedding. And that was just 2007. Between 2004 and 2007, I buried my grandfather, I got my Alexander Technique certificate, I began AT teaching in my home, I started the Kodály at George Mason University graduate school program. It was pretty crazy. So when it all ended and I moved to Atlanta, I sat and stared out the window at our beautiful woods for six months.
Somewhere in there I joined Facebook, and put up a website saying that I was an Alexander Technique teacher. One day, out of the blue, the phone rang. It was a lovely woman who was enquiring about AT lessons. Who, me? Why, sure, I guess? Can I teach at your house? That was the start of emerging from the cocoon I’d created around myself and starting to find community and purpose here in Atlanta.
I’m very glad that I used my Alexander skills to take the time I needed, without guilt or shame, to process this huge transition. By the time Lisa called me, I was ready for everything that is my life now to unfold.
How do you see change and transition in your life?
Does the quote at the start of the article resonate for you?
What old habits and behavior patterns would you let go if you could start all over?