Everywhere you go, there you are. Until you are not.
“Transition always starts with an ending. To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old.” - William Bridges
The experience of travel is visceral. It is much more tangible than our day to day lives. When we are away from home, our senses - sights, sounds, smells, and tastes - become overwhelmed with novelty. The poignancy of travel memories make them the perfect entry point into larger reflections.
Travel becomes a milestone to evaluate the degree to which life has changed since the last trip. When I look back at my life, the years get clearer when I reflect on where I traveled each year. When I shine the light on a particular trip, the bigger circumstances of my life at that time is easier to grab.
I increase my degree of reflection when I look at different visits to the same destination. When I look at my visits to Minnesota, the place I grew up but have not lived in 15 years, the changes in my life are obvious. When I look at the handful of times I have visited Paris, I can see who I was within each of the visits. I can see how the person I am existed even then. I can see what parts of me are no longer recognizable. If I drop myself back to the aimless walks I took across Paris, it is easy to recall the celebrations and challenges that met me on those walks.
Last week, I spent a couple of days in Colorado - a place I have lived twice and visited regularly. I have always held Colorado as my default place. The place I will eventually return to settle down. In 2013 when I last left Colorado, a friend said to me “You can take the woman out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of a woman.” I clung to that as my deepest truth.
Yet lately, I have had a developing sense that maybe Colorado will never be my home again. At first, the sense came in small droplets. I would be on a long drive in the Sierras - another mountain range closer to the Bay area - and feel home. I hike the same trail that is 15 minutes from my home in Oakland weekly and the earth beneath it is part of me. These are small invitations I thought would never rise to meet me outside of Colorado. And here they are.
Like most things that start out as a sense, my initial reaction was to deny their significance. I would lay out the facts. I would point to the span of seven months since my last visit to Colorado and know the reason things felt distant. Physically, they were. I would tell myself that when I next landed back in Boulder, my feelings of home would return again. Boulder's beauty would capture me, as it had on so many occasions.
And yet, when I was back last week, that didn't happen.
I felt lost. I was lost. On my second day in Colorado, I rose early to meet an old friend for a hike at one of my favorite trails. I navigated instinctively to Broadway, one of the main roads through Boulder, following a path I have driven thousands of times. After a few minutes of easeful driving, I found myself in a panic. I could not remember where to turn. I looked in my rearview mirror to try to get my bearings. I wanted to understand if I was too far South, having missed my turn, or if the road I needed was still ahead of me. The order of the streets was out of my memory. The forever familiar no longer made sense.
After a few minutes of discomfort, it became clear to me that I was no longer a Colorado woman. My identity had shifted. I couldn't see it from afar. I needed to be in it.
Last year, I wrote about William Bridges, a man who gave me a renewed perspective on transitions. Transitions are more than a change in circumstances. In his book, he says “Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t take.”
Moving across state lines is rearranging the furniture. Until I could shift my identity away from Colorado, I was still in transition. Though it has been more than 5 years since I moved back to California from Colorado, I had not let Colorado go, yet. Part of my identity still lived three states over. Everywhere I went, there I was.
Clients hire coaches in times of change - those that are already in progress and those that are just beginning. They want to rearrange the furniture. Others want to find their place in a world rearranged by someone else.
With coaching, come to realize that rearranging things does not create change that sticks. Change requires courage to see the identity of who they are shift. To transition away and towards at the same time.
For those of you navigating change, ask yourself:
- What do I have to be willing to see about myself to transition to where I am going?
- What do you I have to be willing to let go of holding to create the space for what is next for me?
- How do you want to see yourself on the other side of your circumstances? Slow down enough to see the droplets of that version of yourself now.