Wednesday 30 October 2019

The power of transitions

This post was originally published on Medium.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us……
These immortal words by Charles Dickens come to mind when I look back at the last year. In the summer of 2018, we moved countries and continents and I faced failure after repeated failure in getting my next role. I give myself an ‘A’ for effort; I networked, called and met people, applied to all sorts of organizations for all kinds of roles, had several interesting conversations and promising interviews; yet, the result, if measured in terms of a concrete job offer, was a big fat zero.
I played the blame game for a while. I blamed the lack of opportunities suited to my profile. I blamed vague implicit hiring biases. Most of all, I blamed my fate as the trailing spouse, being forced to move cities and continents for the sake of my husband’s career. I am not proud of the many resentful thoughts I harboured for months. Try as I might, the worst and pettiest elements of my nature reared their ugly heads as I focused angrily on the most negative aspects of my life. Every day, I had to brutally refocus my thoughts on all that was beautiful and infinitely precious — good health, the kids, our home, a loving family, financial security — and give thanks for all that I had. It was enough, I told myself. Even if I didn’t have anything else, what I already had was over and beyond what most people enjoyed.
I walked for miles and miles, in the most inclement weather, pounding out my frustration on the asphalt. Over a period of months, slowly but surely, my confused thoughts gained clarity. Out of the bleak and opaque quagmire settled in my brain, arose some degree of coherence.
I was able to answer some cardinal and elemental questions. What did I really want? What were the fundamental principles and values on which I wanted to base my life? What was truly important to me? Did I need or want the career that I was expected to have (and whose expectations were these?), or did I need to craft a life that would harmonise every aspect of my life and leave space for my many eclectic interests? How could I unshackle myself from some deep-rooted insecurities, and the expectations of others, to pursue a life that was truly undeniably authentically mine?
I believe this is an Alcoholics Anonymous mantra- “You can’t think your way into a course of action; you can only act your way into a course of thinking.” I like to think that all those hours and miles of walking, all those hours spent cleaning/cooking/caring for my family, all those hours meditating and twisting myself into yogic asanas, all of this inexorably led to a profound re-evaluation of my life goals.
I’ve been told by people who know me well, that I am confident, and resilient, and strong. The last year tested all those assumptions to the hilt, and then some. Transitions lead to unexpected and often painful change but as I learnt, change is often a prized gift, an opportunity to reflect, reframe and recharge.
I used to think of opportunity costs, the sacrifices I made to support someone else. On a bad day, I could easily relapse into a quasi-victim mentality. Haven’t I paid the double tax of being a woman and a mother, and being a trailing spouse? But victimhood helps no one. What the transition gave me in spades, was time. Immeasurably priceless, for how often are we offered an all-paid holiday to just thinkClear the cobwebs of the mind, contemplate, ruminate, chew the cud?
Finding one’s life purpose, I used to think, was that lightbulb moment when all would be magically revealed. I did find my life’s purpose in one such A-ha! moment many many years ago. What I did not realize is that purpose, just like one’s personality, beliefs and tastes, changes over time. It mutates and evolves, fueled and enriched by our experiences, our difficulties and our failures. What is my purpose today, may or may not stay the same a few years down the line.
Today, having “acted my way into a course of thinking”, I remember this famous poem by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth……
No matter what we do, we will at times always think about what we didn’t do, what we could have done, what we were meant to do but didn’t….But the difference is only in our heads.
What is, is now.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Character is destiny”. Who we are, is infinitely more important than what we’ve done.


  1. Even today at almost 77 I have had many moments of what’s the purpose of this life you have beautifully concluded with the Greek philosopher’s comments.

    1. The greek philosophers, and our own maharishis, have all the answers that we seek! :)


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