Sunday, May 2, 2010

Transitions: Making the Most of Them

As I write today I am reflecting on a huge transition I am about to make. At the end of this school year, in just over a month, I will leave a school I have worked at for the last 5 years. ( If you would like to read about the context of this transition, you can find my story here.)There are many reasons for this change and I know it's the right decision for me. As always, though, even well-planned transitions, those validated by deep soul-searching and analysis bring a great deal of anxiety. For me this anxiety has been manifesting itself in dreams, worrying, and other unhelpful thought diversions distracting me from living in the moment, enjoying the last experiences where I am.

As you read this post, perhaps you can think about one of your own transitions, a time when you were leaving something behind or about to jump into a whole new world, whether it was a job, relationship, school or major financial commitment, like buying a home. I have come up with some strategies that are helping with my transition and would be thrilled if others joined in to add to the list.
  • Be honest with yourself: When you make a change there are often mixed feelings about what you are leaving behind. In my case, I feel a host of emotions that I must deal explore. Just say no to denial! I am excited about my new job, feel guilty about leaving kids who "need me" where I teach now, and sad about leaving some of my coworker friends. Of course, dwelling on those negative emotions is not productive, but admitting that change can dredge up all kinds of feelings can help. I can also plan how I will stay in touch with my friends to ease the sadness.
  • Be aware that others will give you their opinions! You know that old saying, opinions are like.. well...let's just say that everyone has one. Many people are scared of change and when they see others "going for it" they are threatened. They may say things that challenge your decision. Don't be intimidated or defensive but acknowledge that you have done some soul searching.  
  • Take care of yourself: This sounds like a no-brainer, but often when we go through transitions we forget to keep up our basic self-care routines like sleeping enough, eating well and getting exercise. Exercise is a great antidote to stress!
  • Write about it: When I was contemplating a new job, I made a grid that listed how my present job and my prospective job align with my values and goals. Somehow seeing the result on paper validated my decision. As I saw the dissonance between my values and the practices at my school I knew I was doing the right thing by leaving.  
  • Savor the moments: I have been working hard to be in the moment each day at my school, enjoying the spontaneous hellos and hugs I get from kids every day. I will miss these relationships I have developed with kids and families but there is no reason I can't stay in touch with them via email.
  • Celebrate the memories: By celebrating the positive times at my school, remembering events, glancing at pictures of my classes, I am able to validate the hard work and important time of growth in my life.
  • Look forward: I have been in regular communication with people at my new school, planning a training in June when I can start to immerse myself in the culture and curriculum of my new school. I also spent a couple days of my spring break at the school, learning about their routines and culture. It was time well-spent!
Of course we all deal with change in our own way, and what works for me may not work for you! Often when we share our ideas we are inspired to try something different or look at our experiences in a new way. Please share how you handle transitions so that we can help each other look ahead with positive anticipation!

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