Opinion

Process transitions

Do you remember the first time you visited your high school after you graduated?

I do. I was home for fall break my freshman year. My mom asked me to pick up my brother from school. I remember considering the prospect and thinking, “Okay, yeah! It would be cool to see everyone again and show them how grown-up and collegiate I am.” So I went.

About three minutes after I set foot on campus, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. I had decided not to tell my friends that I was coming and was expecting them to be jubilant at the sight of me. Instead of unadulterated joy, their faces showed … confusion.

“What are you doing here?” they asked as they smiled and hugged me. There was the question of the hour. What was I doing there? After several minutes of horribly awkward conversations with them and with some teachers and administrators who saw me, I was ready to bail.

Let’s be real. We’ve all been there.

It happened when you decided to go home for the first high school football game of the season. It happened when you walked into your youth room to say hi to your friends and your youth pastor for the first time since you’d left. It happened when you agreed to go with a friend to his senior prom even though you had a year of college under your belt. And you wonder, “Why did that feel so incredibly weird?”

By definition, transition is awkward. You did things one way but now you do them another way. You were that but now you are this. Change is awkward. (If you don’t believe me, look at a picture of yourself in 8th grade or go read your old MySpace posts).

When you transition, you’re leaving one thing behind and starting another. I used to tell people, “I am studying Family and Human Services.” Now when I’m asked I say, “I studied Family and Human Services.” Past tense. It’s over. I studied Family and Human Services and now I’m (insert adult things here).

Transition is scary. You were doing this one thing and now you’re supposed to be doing this other thing, but what if you’re no good at this other thing? You were pretty decent at that one thing because you had been doing it for a while and it was comfortable. But this new thing … well it’s new. And different. And hard. But you have to do it because you’ve left that other thing behind and you can’t go back.

That’s why you feel so weird when you go back to your old high school to visit. Everyone knows that you’ve transitioned. You used to be a student there but now you’re not. Now you’re supposed to be doing some other thing. You are afraid to give the impression that you haven’t transitioned well. You’re scared others will think you’re not very good at doing that other thing.

Transition is a process. It’s a gradual change.

When you walked across your high school graduation stage you did not become a successful college student overnight. And when I walked across JBU’s stage in Bill George last May I did not become a successful “young professional” adult overnight.

It has been four and a half months and I still cannot start our lawnmower in less than seven tries. I have an adult paycheck now and am bringing in more money than I ever have and sometimes I make stupid purchases because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

It took me a while to feel confident enough in my own abilities and knowledge to speak up during staffing meetings at work. Last month I forgot to pay a bill because I swear there’s like 37 different ones that are all due at different times. I still accidentally shrink my sweaters because I put them in the dryer instead of following the directions on the tags.

This transitional process has given me ample opportunities to take pictures of my mistakes, ‘gram them and #thatadultlifetho. I’ve learned to laugh, throw away that casserole I made for my housemate that had two tablespoons (instead of teaspoons) of salt and order a pizza. There is grace to be found in the transitional process. Embrace it.

Yeah, I’ll be real. There are plenty of times when I want to ditch the “gap year” idea and go back to become a fifth-year senior. There are times when I miss the JBU bubble. There are times when I question my decision to do the grown-up thing in a state away from my family. There are times when I bemoan my choice not to go to grad school right away because I know it would be way more comfortable than what I’m doing now.

These are the times I dig in my feet and think about that quote I see on Pinterest all the time: “Wherever you are, be all there.”

I’m all here. And it’s scary. And that’s okay.