Ever since the first days of February I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions. Maybe it’s because this trip went from “happening” to “definitely happening” once the Department of Immigration approved my online visa application in 20 minutes. It’s likely due to the fact that I was getting ready to enter my busiest time of the year at work, yet I also knew I had to put in all my evening hours to trip preparation. And I’m sure a strong contributing factor was that this life changing decision was something I had to keep a secret at work for a few more weeks.
The excitement and calm I had once felt nearly vanished in early February, and in its place came moments of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Sleep became restless. And this whole jumble of feelings and difficulty sleeping has stayed with me ever since.
The silver lining is that I know most, if not all of this is completely normal and to be expected. Significant life events, even positive ones, tend to take us on a path of highs and lows, anticipation and doubts, while we transition from one phase to another. As a graduate student, I learned about Nancy Schlossberg’s Transition Theory, and last year at a conference for career counselors and employers, I attended a session about identifying and normalizing change and our internal emotional response to it. For positive changes, there will be excitement of course, but the honeymoon stage will eventually fade and one is often left with questions and doubts before (hopefully) returning to another uphill trip on the roller coaster.
This past Friday was my last day of work. That event in and of itself brought on an array of feelings.
I was a career counselor for four years after graduate school, and leaving notes for my successor and colleagues, organizing files, and recycling old paperwork was a daunting task. How do I take four years of hard work and leave it in a nice little package for someone else? With every minute I spent working on reports, I knew I was inching closer to the trip. Moving closer to 5:00pm on Friday when I would be officially unemployed and living off of savings. I should have felt more excited to be another step closer to the dream. Instead, I could only focus on closing a chapter of my life. I shed a few tears at the office going away party on Thursday when my supervisor read a poem she had written about me. I felt like a deer in headlights whenever someone asked me “so what’s your plan?!” And on Friday as I made my rounds at 4:30 for last goodbyes, the tears started flowing.
Mentally and emotionally, I still can’t quite believe this is all going to happen.
I feel a little like Pippin in Return of the King, only infinitely less terrified. And of course this journey is a good thing, not some battle that will define the future of the entire world. But all the same, I feel like I’m waiting on the edge of something big that I see coming but can’t do much about. Work is behind me and the trip is before me — “it is the deep breath before the plunge.” Now, I have a huge checklist of things to do. But no matter how much or little I do, I’m hopping on that plane in 10 days, ready or not. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely ready. But I’m willing, and that’ll have to do!
So if at this point it sounds like I really don’t want to do this, let me steer back on a more positive path! At church we’ve been studying Genesis, and two weeks ago the pastor spoke about Noah’s patience. Noah was on that ark for over a year. After the rain and waters had flooded the earth, Noah waited for the water to recede. Then he waited for the ground to be dry. And even when it was dry and ready to support life again, Noah didn’t leave the ark. He waited on God to say it was time to disembark. And I sat there listening, realizing how this applied to my life. Four years ago I wanted to go straight from graduate school to traveling in Australia, New Zealand, and SE Asia, but other options kept presenting themselves, and after praying about it, I decided to accept a job and postpone long-term travel. When I decided to definitely make the dream a reality, it was because I had been praying about it again and I felt God was finally saying yes. It was now time to leave the ark — in His timing, not mine. On the way out of church I told my pastor, “Just two more Sundays” and he asked, I think a mix of joking and being serious, if I was getting off the ark too soon. It felt good to honestly respond that my timing would have been four years ago but now I believe it’s His.
So while I’m currently scared, nervous, and already missing family and friends, I trust that this is the right time in my life for this experience. I trust that the excitement will return. I trust that the difficult days will be outnumbered by the wonderful ones. And I trust that I will learn, see, and do good things I can’t predict right now.
I’ll keep riding this roller coaster of emotions, knowing that by acknowledging and somewhat embracing the ebb and flow, I’m normalizing the process and not fighting it. Maybe that means I’m more ready than I realize.