We speak a lot about change, but not enough about transition. Change is a broad and controversial term. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what changes we should make in the world, in ourselves, and others. The connotation in using the word change is that it holds permanence. Transition is a type of change, but without all the controversy.
I see the definition of transition as moving from one stage to another. The entire globe is going through a transition from social distancing to reentering society, with each nation grappling with how to go about it in the safest way. Though we don’t know how this will change us, we do know that we are going through a transition, some sort of shift in time, so an understanding of the nature of transitions will help us navigate these new waters.
Transitions are part of our nature. From creation, every living thing moves through seasons. What starts as a seed grows to a seedling, and what sprouts as a seedling develops into a strong-rooted plant. From birth, we move through the stages of life: infancy to childhood, childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood, adulthood to old age. Within these stages, we also transition: from the crib to a bed, from elementary to middle school, from living with your parents to living on your own, from raising kids to retirement, etc. Transitions are part of global history. We move from age to age, era to era. We are in constant flux on both a macro and micro level.
These shifts in time are adjustment periods, so they are vital in shaping who we are. Educators have long known this. Classes are carefully structured, but transitions between them, those times in the hallway, are crucial for social and emotional development. They are also when bullying can happen and fights break out. We need to continue to be safe as we shift from the structure of home life back into society.
The best transitions have the appearance of being smooth and seamless. Linguists and writers have long know this. Language itself is filled with transitions, such as verb conjugations for speakers of a new language, and “transition words” for essay writers, in order for speech and writing to have flow and fluidity.
Creative types have long known this. The best albums transition from song to song without the listener realizing it, just as the best stand up comedian routines move from topic to topic without the audience knowing, and the most nuanced filmmaker edits scenes so they keep the viewer engaged. Though our current shift will not be as smooth and seamless as the Abbey Road medley, we ought to try for one that feels that way.
Transitions set the tone for what’s to come, so are ripe with opportunity. This is the moment when we have the chance to make beneficial changes to society. Any time we talk to each other, it’s in those awkward pauses when we think of what to say next that we define the conversation.
Transitions are tied to mortality. Eventually, a strong-rooted plant wilts and a wilted plant dies. These shifts can happen suddenly or gradually, but are always uncertain and unknown, and therefore, carry fear. It’s normal to feel fearful during transitions; it’s part of our essence as a living being. What we can try to do is accept these feelings as they are, just as we strive to accept the fact that there can be no life without death.
Transitions bring loss but also appreciation. We often grieve a moment we leave behind, like a kid who misses his friends after moving to a new town, and struggle to accept a moment that’s ahead of us, like a child fearing rejection as he navigates creating new friendships. During this time, the kid’s parents are sure to remind him of all the good things he has. Appreciation is vital in a healthy transition. We need to consistently remind ourselves, every day if we can, of everything we already have, consciously framing our personal narrative.
Finally, transitions are not everlasting. This global snow day, as my friend put it, will end. All we can do is make the most of the opportunities this period has provided us. Though change is controversial, and transitions inevitable, growth is always welcomed and viewed with a positive lens. We can grow through acknowledgement, acceptance, and appreciation. We just need to water our plants every once in a while.
Kruvant, Jonah "My mind, my experiences, and my observations" 1984 - 2020