11 Jun

Today is my last day at my job after 5 wonderful years. I imagined that I’d have a farewell lunch with my co-workers, put a few scattered items into a box, take one last look at my empty office, and go off with friends for a celebratory drink.

But it is 11:30pm and I’m alone in my still-cluttered office, finishing up a grant proposal. It starts to sink in that maybe I’m not as good with transitions as I thought.

I had prided myself on being very responsible through this transition. I gave notice early, heeded the advice of the search consultant, told our funders and donors ahead of time, have tried to be open and not protective nor defensive, let the staff plan my farewell party without any meddling, used social media in the communications plan for announcing the new executive director, and created a thorough orientation plan.

I must be in total denial. Why else would I not give myself any space to slow down, take it all in, and reflect? It’s like a sprint to the finish line, no pleasant jog or leisurely stroll.

“Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change” by William Bridges was helpful when I started this job and I’m finding the lessons very relevant as I leave. He writes, “It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. They aren’t the same thing. Change is situational (like leaving a job)…Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is a three-phase process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.”

The three phases are ending – neutral zone – beginning. Therein lies my problem. I’ve been so focused on the ending and the beginning that I’ve made no room for what’s in between. Even when the changes happen quickly, the inward psychological transition will still be much slower. Instead of becoming a new person as fast things as things change outwardly, it’s expected that I will struggle for a time. Bridges describes this as “a kind of emotional wilderness, a time when it isn’t clear who you are.”

Those of you who know me know that “emotional wilderness” is not a place for me. But it apparently cannot be bypassed. Do I know that the transition will be harder than I’m admitting so I’m filling up every minute with activity in the hope I can avoid it? Perhaps. Will this tactic fail? Perhaps. Two months from now, will I find myself sobbing on some Orange County beach because I can’t figure out what I want? Perhaps. But that’s supposedly a good thing. We’ll see.


4 Responses to “Transitions”

  1. Carol Cantwell June 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    It’s so great to read your writing again. And as someone who has spent a lifetime fighting the neutral zone and losing every time, I can pretty much assure you that you will in fact end up crying but probably not in as pretty a location as a beach. More like a bus or other inconvenient public location. 🙂

    • cil1977 June 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      thanks, carol! it’s good to know that even people as grounded and amazing as you go through the neutral zone blues. for some reason, breaking down in public doesn’t feel so bad in oakland – i see people do it all the time. feels scarier in orange county, where “good” people don’t “cause a scene”…

  2. Stephanie Roth June 14, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    I echo Carol’s sentiment that it’s so great that you’ve started blogging again. You captured so much in this post about the challenges of moving on… and I appreciate your making yourself vulnerable in this way. It’s very touching and real.


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