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Transition 2017-First entry

Introducing the theme of this year's blogging: transition. It designates my personal and career transition put in motion last year and set into full gear as of today, the first day of 2017. I am maintaining my positive thinking perspective, and I intend to occasionally speak in the voice of the Eye of the Optimist, but I am moving forward in line with what is happening in my life and the evolution of my writings on positive thinking over the past 3 years. 

I am not abandoning my positive thinking perspective, but I am switching themes. The "Eye of the Optimist" thread conveyed a focus on positive thinking outlook, methods, examples and and resources, expanding on my project, "A Year of Thinking Positively." I have been working on the positive thinking angle for three years. I now want to switch to a theme of transition. It befits my present circumstances of making a transition from a life of teaching in Korea to a life doing some other work in Canada.

The topic of transition certainly is related to positive thinking and the reasoning and purposes of developing a positive thinking out look. For one thing, a transition could be regarded as a negative development, regarded only with grief, fear and pessimism. By taking control and deciding and planning the transition, however, it can be viewed optimistically and with some positive emotion, even though grief, fear and doubts are bound to surface through the process.

I have reached a point of specific transition regarding occupation, location and cultural-ecological environment. I have resigned my job teaching English at a Korean university, am in the midst of packing up my life in Korea, and about to return to my hometown for a new life. 

With this Transition blog, I want to log my course as I go on, and chart the next phase in my future. I am resettling in Canada and attempting a late life career shift. I will make new stabs at writing projects and networking, while I build a new home and construct a specific retirement plan. I'll discuss the process of transition, and issues and reflections as they arise, for the benefit of readers.

To begin this discussion, let us look at the definition of life transition by referring to a popular online dictionary, dictionary.com. It simply states: "movement, passage, or change from one position,state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another;change: ( e.g., the transition from adolescence to adulthood)".

A life transition usually involves more than one transition. As one facet of life changes, consequently so do others. For instance, moving to a new home of entails a geographic adjustment to an unfamiliar surrounding with unfamiliar faces; it can mean, moreover, change of employment, friends and co-workers, culture, services, routines, diet, climate, shopping, and more. As another example, when a figure in one's life passes, the absence of that relationship can affect other relationships, habits, routines, and activities. Furthermore, more than one type of change can occur together. Psychology Today's website gives the example of a woman breaking up with her boyfriend who is awarded a job promotion. Such a big change takes a big toll on one's emotions and mindset. 

I, for one, have been experiencing waves of strong and conflicting emotions as the dates of my resignation, final day of duties, and departure from Korea have been approaching. Since I have good reasons for making the change in my life, I have positive feelings about moving on, but those positive feelings about another place and the future can give rise to a negative view of the past and location of the life I am leaving. I thus have felt waves of frustration, resentment and anger with my employer and place of residence as I become more conscious of the benefits of me moving to Canada and trying something different to do in life. At the same time, doubts and fears about the future have crept in to my soul, despite my rational thinking. Meanwhile, wistful and nostalgic feelings about my past in Korea emerge here and there. I am struck by deep sadness each time I take a step to change my life, like giving away personal items I won't take to Canada, ending classes this past semester, talking to the friends I'll leave behind, and finding a new home for my pets. A taut thread of anxiety underlines all such activities, and my stomach is affected by nerves, interrupted by periodic waves of euphoria at taking the leap. As I reach each point in success at rebooting my life, like finding job ads worth replying to and securing some housing in Canada, I feel relief and glee, which are emotions broken by bouts of grief and reluctance. I am riding tumultuous waves of change that take me up and down, again and again. 

One must adjust. It is natural to feel nervousness, fear, doubt and anger at change, especially when it is unexpected, such as a dismissal from employment, a death or an accident. Unfortunately, it may be that some people never completely adjust. To adjust acceptance is necessary, and a positive view of the benefits of the change must be understood for one to eventually feel good about the change and content. Sometimes, change is so profound and the process of change so enveloping and complex, that one could get ill. It is good to get some professional assistance and find someone qualified and equipped to talk to so as to avoid or alleviate the pain and discomfort of change.

It is best to give the process time and expect to experience this roller-coaster of emotions. Aware, one can appreciate the particular emotions as a response to change, and understand where they are coming from. Big emotions cannot be snuffed out quickly and it is best not to sweep them under the rug, while one should not let them take you over. Planning goals to adjust and create a new way in life helps to give balance, and provide reason for optimism. Being conscious and taking control of the change can prevent one from losing sense of direction and ending up in defeat or with a sense of defeat. A change can be good, and it can be ripe with new possibilities to advance yourself or improve your life.

Here is some advice from the Psychology Today website about handling life transitions. 

Keys to Handling Life's Transitions
Within the angst lie opportunities for change.

Posted Jul 31, 2013 (www.psychologytoday.com)

Ready or not, we all go through numerous transitions in our lives – living high school to go to college or work, changing jobs, getting married, having children. These become those weeks or months or longer of awkward emotional spaces where we have cut ties with what we know and have not quite settled into what is new. Some, like Sara’s, are by choice, by opportunity; others come from natural ends – the graduating from college – and still others are unwillingly imposed on us – sudden layoff from a job, unwanted and uninitiated breakups in relationships. Whatever the circumstances, navigating this gray zone of transitions can be difficult, presenting us with new problems and demanding us to respond in new ways. 

Here are some tips for surviving and thriving through these difficult and uncertain times: 

Expect to feel depressed and anxious. Even though Sara’s relationship with her boyfriend ended relatively well, a loss is still a loss, a major change in her life. Even though her job is a promotion, she is still going to leave behind both colleagues that she has grown close to and a job that has become comfortable and familiar. Whenever we move forward we leave something behind, and this creates a psychological state of grief, however small. And if the change is unexpected and unwanted– the sudden job layoff or relationship breakup – the shock and depression are greater. And with such turmoil comes anxiety. We are out of our comfort zone; our imaginations run wild; we worry about an unknown future.

Realize that this is a new / old chapter in your life. While you need to acknowledge your loss, you don’t want to get stuck in the past. Acknowledging that a door is closed is psychologically healthy; spending your time staring at it is not. 

While it sounds like a cliché, the next step after an end is a new beginning, a new chapter, and keeping this in mind can give you a sense of a fresh start. And while the particular circumstances are new, the process itself is familiar. You have, after all, made transitions before – changing schools, neighborhoods, relationships, jobs. You know the terrain, you’ve acquired experience and skills along the way. You can do this again, and this time even better. 

Think positive, think opportunity.

In the movie Up In the Air George Clooney played a character whose job is to fire people for companies that were downsizing. He always began his termination speech with “ I’m here to talk to you about new opportunities.” Is it a bit of spin, a bit forced – sure – but it is also true. 

I remember going through a period many years ago where I had moved to a new town with my wife and 2 children and was unable to find a job. Though I was initially depressed (loss and grief), I eventually used my time to begin to write. By the time I finally landed a job, a year and a half later, my writing, even if somewhat fragile, was under way, and my outlook on work and family life had changed. Looking back on that time now, I realize that if I had quickly found a job I would have gone on auto-pilot, marched ahead into the same workaholic work I had before, and probably never had the time to develop this other aspect of me nor made my family as much of a priority. Though it was certainly a difficult time, it ultimately was a pivotal one, reshaping the direction of my future and the next 30 years. 

During times of transition, when everything seems to be in flux, when your old patterns have collapsed, you may feel unsteady but are also most malleable to change. Now is the time to explore, brainstorm, consider the make-over before your life begins to naturally solidify into new patterns. Sara now has the unique opportunity to begin her new life in a new way. Starting new relationships from scratch, she has the opportunity to experiment with being more bold, more assertive, more honest than she may have been before. This is the time to think outside the box. 

Hit the ground running. And don’t take too long to get started. We are creatures of habit and routine, and those routines can congeal quickly. If Sara lets her anxiety take over once she moves, she may easily find herself in 6 months coming home from work, eating a frozen dinner and watching TV night after night. The momentum is lost and it will feel harder to break out. As soon as those boxes are unpacked, or before, she needs to have a plan and get moving on it.

Get support. It’s tough to do this all on your own. Sara will probably be calling her old friends at the old job for a few months until she develops new ones; she will need to be leaning on her supervisor as she tackles the learning curve of the new assignment. Others will need to rely on family for moral support, still others on counselors. When you are feeling a bit ungrounded, support from others can help you keep perspective and moving ahead.

Have a realistic timeframes and expectations. There are going to be difficult days when Sara is going to think that she never should have taken the new job or even broken up with her boyfriend, all natural reflections of her up-and-down state of mind. She needs to be patient, realize that it may take her a year to feel confident in her job, months to begin to make new friends. Anything less and she is only adding pressure and stress.

Transitions are those unique times when we toss off the old but have not yet stepped into the new. While the circumstances are always different, the skills and attitudes needed to successfully move ahead are always the same, namely being positive, patient, and proactive. 

A new journey awaits.

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