There are many times in our lives where we pass through pivotal altering transitions in our lives. Some are marked with spiritual and/or cultural rituals such as a First Communion, Bar Mitzvah, Sweet 16, graduation from high school/university, marriage and death to name a few.
Traditional societies highly regard these transitional moments in a person’s life with elaborate ritual and celebration. A boy is cognizant of entering manhood. A woman’s responsibility is enlarged when she consents to marriage or a marriage is arranged. The ceremonies surrounding these life transitions are obvious signals and recognition that the person’s life is changing. For the most part, there is also much support from family and community members during these important markers in an individual’s life.
Our modern society has some indication that transitions are occurring but they are not as emphasized as they once were. Even though a child may have a spiritual celebration depending on the religion, there is no longer a definitive marker as to when adulthood begins. Is it when an individual is of legal age to drink alcohol? When they get a full time job? When they graduate from a post-secondary school?
Less and less, we are aware of our transitions but we feel things have changed and many people feel unprepared to cope with the “new normal”. The village is no longer behind you giving you advice and wisdom. That is not to say that family and friends are not supportive, but there are many paths that can be taken now, and this can be overwhelming to some individuals. On the flip side, the freedom to choose any destiny allows others to fly free and explore.
Another trend or consequence is that many individuals are expected to “suck up” the transition and all that goes along with it and go on with life as usual. Complaining is not allowed. The amount of support is not the same as it was a few decades ago and this can have an impact on how smoothly a life change proceeds and how satisfying it is to the individual.
A good example is my own transition of expecting a baby. Up to a few decades ago, the woman’s responsibility was caring for the home, her husband and raising children. The expectations were clear and support systems were set in place to encourage this. Mothers, aunts, sisters and friends helped each other as needed and were usually available to each other.
As a professional woman in today’s modern society, there are different expectations placed on me by others and myself. I have to now figure out how to raise a child, maintain a business, care for my home and somehow make time in there for myself. It is virtually impossible to excel in all aspects of what I feel is important in my life simultaneously.
To top it all off, I do not live near my extended family. My mother is not available to help me care for her grandchild on an ongoing basis as my own grandmother was there for me as I was growing up and helped my mother with childcare. It is a different set of circumstances.
There are pros and cons to both ways of going through a transition. Our modern society emphasizes being very aware and responsible when going through changes. It can actually put us in a very powerful role of taking our life by the reins and completely deciding how we are going to handle all aspects of our life, where we are going to focus our attention and what coping skills we will need.
The strength in this situation is knowing when we need to ask for support from those around us as we still benefit from reaching out to our community. As I go through my own transition, I have to decide where I am going to focus my attention and what support I need. I know that I cannot do all of this myself and I am open to help. Being proactive, aware and flexible are important characteristics to successfully manage a life transition.
What changes are you going through and what resources will help you transition smoothly?
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA