“I think I’m pregnant.”
When I heard these words from my beloved girlfriend of three years, I experienced a rainbow of emotions in the course of about thirty seconds. I was both excited and terrified. I was joyful to be starting a family, and sad to be leaving my bachelor’s life of adventure behind. I was hopeful and eager for what the future would bring, and anxious about the uncertainties of crossing over into a new frontier. More than anything else, I knew my life was about to change.
It’s not like we weren’t planning for this—we just weren’t planning for this right now. We were planning to have children in more of a “Yeah, we should really do that some day” kind of way. The fact that it happened now is, well, it’s perfect. A little more unexpected, but perfect. As the saying goes, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.”
I am no stranger to major life transitions. Working in the hotel industry, I have moved repeatedly—sometimes to a tropical island, sometimes to a foreign country—constantly adapting to my new surroundings. But bringing a child into the world initiates a domino effect of major life changes that grow in scale exponentially as each domino falls. We are moving from our tiny one bedroom apartment to a large house with room for our expanding family to grow into. And I asked Catherine to be my wife, so I am proud to announce that wedding plans are underway (thankfully, she said “yes!”) Transitional periods are exciting, but they are also stressful. They bring the promise of a new future, but force us to let go of attachments from the past. In my case, the changes are a blessing: a new child, a new bride, and a new home. But transitions don’t always work that way. Sometimes life transitions involve a loss—of a loved one, of a job, of a home. The stress caused by life-changing events can take us by surprise, making us more vulnerable to illness or disease. The ability to adapt to major life changes, good and bad, is an important skill of resilience that helps us maintain our health and happiness.
These are some of the things I’ve been thinking of as I approach the changes that lie ahead. See if any of these ideas help you with your own transitional periods.
• Get present. Big changes mean letting go of what was and accepting what is. Letting go of the way things used to be is what frees you up to grow into a new future.
• Share the transition. Change can be overwhelming if you have to go through it alone. Share your positive changes with friends and family and they will help you to savor and appreciate the good events that are happening. When the change is less positive, your support network becomes even more important.
• Remind yourself what doesn’t change. Major life transitions don’t change who you are. Your personality, your values, and many of your relationships will follow you down your new path. Assimilating the changes into the core of who you are will create your new future.
Life is full of surprises, some big and some small. Some changes knock us down, keeping us humble and forcing us to go back to our basics. Some launch us forward, bringing new opportunities for growth and happiness. As Forrest Gump would say, “you never know what you’re gonna get.” Some changes are so big, they can’t be captured in three small tips in a one-page magazine article. All you can do is be grateful…and enjoy the ride.