If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you likely know that a LOT of big things have happened and are happening in my life this year. The three majors: graduating with my doctorate, watching my daughter graduate (with honors) from high school, and sending her off to college. It’s been a LOT! Most of what’s happened for me has been filed under “amazing”… but this college transition? Lord help me! There’s been some serious PAIN associated with it, and not just the kind you think…
From the time my daughter was born in 2001 until August 11, 2019, she and I have been inseparable. In my darkest days, she was my lifeline. In my best times, she’s been my cheerleader. From the time she could walk, she's traveled with me through life, hand-in-hand. I always knew she would excel in school and go off to college; she’s been my “genius baby” her whole life. Much like her mama, anything she puts her mind to, she can master. So, I knew a day would come when I’d have to pack her up and move her to a place outside of my home.
Well, this past Sunday, that day came. It was all smiles, fun, and giggles, until it was time for mama and baby to part ways. I can’t lie. I was a wreck. Before the elevator doors could shut, I felt the sobs coming, and boy DID THEY. I spent the rest of that evening and all of the next day in bed or on the couch. The tears would come and go, but what remained steadfast was the pain I felt. The empty house was different. The quiet was different. The meal for one was different. For the first time in my adult life, I was alone.
This transition from full-time mommyhood, to full time individual is nothing like I thought it would be. Of course, I’m just a few days in, but the pain of change is real! For 18 years, I’ve lived by her schedule, her needs, and her goals. Starting Sunday, though, that was over. Now my time must be devoted to this new person I’m being required to become.
Believe it or not, THAT’S SCARY!
I am realizing that this means getting to know myself as an individual. Not as a mom, not as a daughter, (ex)wife, friend, or roommate. But as just… me. This requires growth and change – both of which can be quite painful to endure. Who am I now that the focus is on me? What are my goals, really? What will I do now that there’s no one who needs me for their daily sustenance and survival?
Many of you either know what it’s like to experience major life transitions or you are on the precipice of your own. You can identify with the fear and anxiety that often accompany these changes, as well. At some point in all our lives, we’re challenged with fully stepping away from the path we’ve been traveling to start a totally new journey, one that is absolutely foreign to everything we’ve experienced thus far in life. It’s scary because it’s new. It means creating new routines and new norms. It means taking complete control of (and responsibility for) your time and your actions. It means getting to know the new you and being held singularly accountable for your growth or stagnation. It also means getting over the hurt of losing what you’ve always had so you can experience the joy of what’s to come.
One of the lessons I’ve learned is that my daughter has been my crutch. She’s held me up on days when I wanted to completely collapse and give up. Because of her, I knew I couldn’t give up. She needed me! Now, she and I both have to stand on our own two feet, as adults. Not that we can’t support each other, no! Now, though, neither of us can use the other as an excuse for why we can’t do or haven’t done what we were called to. At this point in our lives, we are now responsible for our progress or lack thereof.
If you find yourself in a similar place today, look up! I want to tell you three things that you can rely on in this season of painful change and growth.
1. You’re not alone!
Well, of course you’re not! If you’ve read this far, you already know that at least one other person has cried because she didn’t want to change, because she was afraid to change. If nothing else, let my experience teach you that you’re not the first person to be thrust into the unknown (and required to be productive all the while), nor are you the first to wonder what in the world life holds for you in the future (or whether you even have a future). Let me remind you that you have a purpose, and as my (online) mentor Kimberly Jones Pothier often says, “As long as you have a pulse, God has a plan for you!”
Tap into your circle. Contact those close friends and family members, who you can trust, and keep them informed of how you’re feeling. Remember, it’s ok to feel afraid, disappointed, scared, or anxious. You just need to ensure that you surround yourself with people who won’t let you stay that way for long! Give them permission to hold you accountable for getting off the couch or out of the bed. They should be able to let you hurt for a while, but they should also love you enough to tell you, “Ok, let’s put a end date on this pity party and a start date on your new journey.” And you should trust them enough to listen and act accordingly.
2. Change is good!
Anything that doesn’t grow is dead, so we must conclude that in order to truly live, change and growth are required. You haven’t lived your best life, yet! Even if life is good for you right now, there is still plenty of time for you to evolve and develop in ways you haven’t even imagined. Stop thinking that pain equals death! While it might feel like you’re dying, you are very much alive. God loves you enough to transform you, rather than terminate you. This means that you still have purpose! You still have a reason to be here! The pain doesn’t hurt so much when you realize that it must be endured for a reason.
Find positive ways to assuage your pain. Whether it’s a new exercise regimen, a new hobby, or new (healthy) social activity, put the pain of growth and change to its best use. Allow it to help you discover more about yourself. Don’t just look for the source of the pain so you can relieve it; look for the origin of the pain so you can gain insight as to why it’s there in the first place. Think of it in terms of labor – that pain is taking place so that a new life can begin. That’s what’s happening for you right now. A new life for you is on the way! Find the source of your pain ,so you can breathe with it, rather than fight it.
3. Get out of your own way!
There’s a meme going around on social media that says, “Don’t become the weapon formed against you that keeps you from prospering.” In other words, don’t become your own worst enemy! It is so easy to say all the negative things that come to your mind. (Believe me, I know!) Saying and believing the worst are SO easy to do when you’re feeling down and lost. Some of the hardest words to say in these times is, “I’m going to have a good day today” or “I believe this won’t last forever.” How can you say these things when you can’t see any good ahead of you and you don’t understand why this time of your life must be so stinking difficult?! Listen, I get it. It’s hard, I mean really hard to do, but somehow, some way, you’ve got to start saying positive things to yourself. You have to get out of the negative side of things and into a positive attitude (ask me how I know, duh!).
So, always have your happiness-makers on standby, whether that’s music, positive affirmations and readings, sermons, dancing, art… Whatever it is that can get you into your happy place, keep it close by during this time of transition. It will keep you out of the abysmal parts of your mind, and you’ll be less likely to endure long periods of depression. Speaking personally, my mom and my friends send me theme songs and affirmations at the start of the day that help me get going (because the mornings can be the worst!). I also listen to talks and sermons from my favorite motivators, who also help me get on the right track. You, too, must find “that thing” that will help you keep moving (even if it’s just a slow shuffle forward) when you feel like you’re too scared or don’t have the strength to go on. Something or someone must remind you that you can go on, and you must. Find whatever or whoever that is and keep them close!
No matter what, understand that you’re not going through this because your life is over. As terrible or as challenging as things might be for you right now, there’s so much more purposed for you! Remember, as long as you’re here, you still have purpose! Your name is still being called. This means that there is still work for you to do! Cry as you must; wallow for a bit if you have to. But after a while, you’ll need to stop crying, dry your eyes, and get back to the work assigned to you. Remember, there is joy that’s assigned to you as you do the work of your calling. As you become more aligned with that work, you’ll feel the peace and joy that come with it.
#WeGrowTogether Dr. Rhonda
Dr. Rhonda Alexander helps leaders and entrepreneurs uncover and discover their best! As an author, professional speaker, and coach, she connects with people who are looking to fulfill their purpose and walk effectively in their life’s calling. Her books, EntrHERpreneur and Your Life’s Calling, can be purchased on TheDrRhonda.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes. She is also available for group and individual coaching. Contact Dr. Rhonda directly at Rhonda@TheDrRhonda.com.