It’s the most anxiety-ridden time of the year! College seniors are being sent out into the “real world,” high school seniors are preparing for college, and parents of children everywhere are wondering what in the Sam Hill their kids are going to do all summer long. For anyone impacted by the school year calendar, there is some sort of transition taking place during this time.
I remember quite clearly the discomfort of graduating from college. Every “Congratulations!” was met with a “So, what are you doing next?” What rang louder than my anxiety around finding a job was my grief at the ending of my time at college. Sure, college was a good experience for me but, more than that, it held the rhythms I had grown comfortable with. I knew what to expect each week and I enjoyed the people I was surrounded by. Regardless of whether or not “what’s next” was exciting or dreadful, I simply didn’t want to leave the familiarity of “what’s now.”
Transitions are so hard, and completely unavoidable. Whether it’s a new grade in school or an entirely new career, we are all subject to the experience of breaking in a new season of life.
Several years ago, I was a bridesmaid in a dear friend’s wedding. As we were getting ready for the ceremony, we realized that the bride had never worn her shoes before. The floors of the church were quite slick and, her high heels having never before touched pavement, the bottoms of her shoes were dangerously smooth. This situation was ripe for a viral video of a bride wiping out on her walk down the aisle.
So, I put on the bride’s brand new shoes and went out into the church parking lot, shuffling my feet in an effort to create some traction on the bottom of the shoes. Thankfully, it worked—if you’ve ever seen a viral video of a bride wiping out on her walk down the aisle, I can assure you that it wasn’t my friend.
It’s a tired but true analogy that new seasons in life are akin to breaking in a new pair of shoes. It can be painful and it might take some time, but the shoes will eventually form to our feet and we will once again walk in comfort. In the case of my friend on her wedding day, she needed a little help. Those shoes were still hers to break in—and I know she felt the agony of that work by the end of the evening—but we could help her ease the transition a bit. We couldn’t totally take away the newness of the high heels, but we could do something to help keep her from falling in them.
Transitions are often awkward, uncomfortable, and scary. We must, as a part of life, go through them, but we shouldn’t have to feel alone in the process. My advice to those in transition—which has recently been me and will eventually be me, again—is to find people who can help you find some traction. Maybe you need help with your kids, advice in building your résumé, or you simply need to say, “I’m scared” to a compassionate, listening ear. When we invite others in to the reality of our teetering, we might find the stability we need throughout the shoe changes of our life’s transitions.
There is, I believe, some peace in knowing that others have gone before us in many of our transitions—and they mostly adjusted to it all just fine! If you are one who is currently in the comfort of familiarity, maybe we can be the ones who ask if those in transition need help getting to what’s next, rather than only asking what is next. We can help break in shoes together, offering some companionship and a little traction to those taking hesitant steps into a new season.
So—congrats, grads! How can I help?