A couple of weeks ago my hubby said:
“It’s the right for me to take a work sabbatical. So let’s take this opportunity to go to Europe for a few months.”
Was my first excited reaction.
But I’m not twenty something without life baggage and commitments, and within a nonosecond Jiminy Cricket my conscience was on my shoulder, tweeting.
“So long? So soon? Leaving the kids. Uprooting from home. One suitcase of clothes and shoes. Scratch that – Backpack not Suitcase! No routine blogging. What about the garden? House-sitters to sort out. Too much to organise,” Jiminy yelled.
Yes, I was balking about leaving the existence I’ve come to know with all its various routines, its happy hours and its little troubles. In my head I was turning down high adventure for the life in which I feel comfortable and content on a day to day basis.
It’s true a swish inter-city break or a two week holiday to a luxury resort wasn’t in the offering. No siree, this would entail flashpacking across numerous countries with a degree of discomfort thrown in.
But high adventure. I can do that. Damp towels, hard beds, blisters – yeah I can still hack it! Sightseeing and trains – Yay, bring it on! So what was I worrying about?
How to manage change
I’m no newbie to change. We’ve moved around the world, and I know that waiting for storms to pass just doesn’t cut it, you have to embrace them and go out in the rain instead!
In reality I don’t think I embraced change all that well when we were moving around, even though we were all managing transition together as a family which meant there was a sort of safety net, although leaving our wider family always hurt.
These days the idea of change leaves me in a bit of a panic – and an unexplained need to hang on to my routines for dear life.
I’m always looking for tips about living the good life as I get older, and getting out to travel is a major ‘good-life tip’ – but within reason!
So I kind of understood when my main response to a wonderful adventure was verging on the negative. It wasn’t the adventure that worried me, it was the overall change that it implied.
Oh and leaving something, in order to gain something else.
Okay dear Lifestylers – I don’t want to minimise ‘change’ as a word. I know some of you will have had to cope with enormous life changes, and huge losses. Today I’m talking more about life transitions which dictate we need to change course in some way … but with some level of choice involved: Moving to a new country, changing jobs, moving house, retiring, becoming a hands-on grandparent, taking sabbaticals … that sort of change.
Out Out Damn Negatives!
One of my expat friends said that her response to change can also be negative. “It’s as if my radar’s turned on, and searching for things that could go wrong, or things that are not going to be quite to my benefit.”
Yes, I get it, and know this is the mindset that blocks acceptance of all the positives.
Reinforced by our surroundings and families
Isn’t it true that at home we try to create an environment which not only makes us feel comfortable and safe but one that helps us manage our life-baggage, helps us structure our habits and allows us to come to terms with our emotions? We’re generally surrounded by people who support the way we are.
Remorse and refunds
Though some changes are eagerly awaited (think new clothes, new houses) they are also often followed by a period of disappointment and regret – have you ever felt ‘buyer’s remorse’ for instance, the day after you’ve bought a house? Or how many of you have bought an expensive new item of clothing, and wanted to take it back the next day for a refund because you’ve felt remorseful! I have! (And coincidentally have a pair of trousers begging to go back to the shop!)
Yes, even longed-for change can come with a price.
How to cope with life change
- Understand that change means letting go of something. But remember that you will generally be gaining something too. So focus on what you’re going to gain.
- Change might mean that you will lose day to day contact with people you are really close to. Devise ways of staying in touch regularly, and let them know how your intentions before you go. Also let them know how important they are to you.
- If you are moving away from your purpose in life, then find ways to take up the reins of your mission again in a positive, even if altered, way.
- Empathise with your inner voice. Listen to what it’s telling you. Understand your concerns, voice what you are losing, and then tell yourself about all the good things that might happen instead.
- Give yourself some choices if you can. The more options you have, the more in control you’ll feel and the energy you put into worrying can then be channeled into decision making.
Do you ever feel like this? Have you had to cope with a change recently? What tips can you offer?
Until next time,
Having a baby I has been the biggest change for me. For over three decades I’ve only really had to worry about myself but now I have this tiny little girl my entire life revolves around. I
My tip – just breath! People are always saying live in the now, live in the moment, in my case sometimes when she’s screaming at 3am after waking up every two hours previously I live in the future when she is older and sleeping through the night 🙂
What lovely advice, Angel. I so agree. And it goes past so quickly 😉
I think my father might have been a change junkie of sorts. He took us to live in Mexico for a year when were little and to live in England for a year where he was an exchange teacher. I don’t think he ever asked my mother what she wanted to do. Maybe it’s just that all this travel at a young age made me less fearful of new things when I became an adult. Once our children left the nest, I was anxious to sell it and downsize which we did a few years ago. But — we never took the sabbatical my husband has been entitled to for many years. Even though I’m pretty OK about change, our sons were not. When we moved from one side of their elementary school to the other side of the same school (all within walking distance) and moved to a house where they could each have their own room, their initial reaction was that we had ruined their lives. I also had a job that it would not have been easy to walk out on. Last February, my husband’s collaborator in medical research invited him to do a sabbatical at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu. (We live in Philadelphia — a mid-Atlantic state on the east coast of the US). Even though we both thought about all the loose ends that would have to be tied up, this time we did not let them keep us from taking the sabbatical. I even tacked on a month long trip in southeast Asia before he started here in Honolulu in February. It occurs to me that the decision to take this step is made a lot easier because we knew we’d be making this change together. (Maybe we’ll cross paths in Europe. My husband has a work trip to Germany in early September 🙂
Wow Suzanne, thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us. I’ve read it and re-read it with great interest, and I’m so glad that you are making the most of your sabbatical, and together. Sadly I won’t be around Europe in September 🙁 But here’s hoping we get to meet up one day, and I think you mentioned in another comment that one day you might return to Perth for a trip?
Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it
I admire you for all the changes you’ve managed to deal with in such a positive way. For us to sell the house that we raised our children in and move from Wisconsin to Utah was liberating. I’ve got to admit, I’m eager to go on some trips in the coming months. The BUT part is my bedroom is so comfortable, it’s hard to imagine sleeping anywhere else (sigh).
Hi Neva, I can’t imagine what it must be like to leave a house that you’ve lived in for many years with so many memories, and devastated is a word that comes to my mind, so I was surprised and inspired by you when you used the word ‘liberating’. Of course it must have been and good on you to see the positive and gain energy from that rather than think about the things you would be losing. Our bedroom is sooo comfortable too, so I know what you mean – have fun on your trips and can’t wait to read about the in the coming months 🙂
Good luck with your adventure, Johanna. I must admit that I am really terrible with change and fear it a lot. I’m not a good traveller as I prefer being at home. However, I’m trying to get myself slightly out of my comfort zone a bit more.
Thank you Ness. I hope you keep stretching the boundaries, at least a little 🙂
Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot
Backpack?! Even backpackers have pull along bags there days. But they are not hardcore experienced travellers like you – you’ll be able to teach them a thing or two and as soon as you get there it will all be great. Two months! Bloody marvelous 🙂
Thanks Annabel – pull along backpacks have astounded me! That’s not bespoke backpacking is it!
Hi Jo and yet again another spot-on blog. I swear you live inside my head! Last autumn I had a mini crisis due to some looming changes in our lives here in the States and I ended up seeing a councilor for a few of sessions. Interestingly (for me anyway!), after much discussion she fathomed out that it was not the prospect of the change itself that was troubling me but the uncertainty of it all. This made perfect sense to me as I have quite a low boredom threshold and welcome change – but change in a planned, on-my-terms kind of way. It is all the uncertainty of a sprung-upon-you change that freaks me out. By taking control over some of the smaller aspects of the change I was able to inject some certainty into the whole process and calmed down a bit.
As a footnote, the threatened, sudden departure from the States did not happen which brings me to another life mantra that I am trying (and obviously failing!) to live by and that is live each day in the moment. The episode in the autumn taught me that I had imagined all sorts of negative consequences to our threatened departure before anything was final and had major stress issues due to scenarios that were all in my head.
Thanks Carol, and I love your reply that you think I might ‘Live inside your head!’ It’s comments like that which inspire me to keep on writing and unpacking thoughts and concerns about life as we get older. So thank you! I’m so glad that your mini crisis last year was unravelled into smaller aspects that made sense, and with which you could cope. I totally relate … on our return to South Africa some years ago I went into meltdown and didn’t understand why – I thought it was because I’d cut my hair short and had lost my youth – of course it went much deeper than that and was all to do with aspects of Change!!! Great that you are continuing to enjoy life in the States, and trying to live each day in the moment – I know, not easy – but yes, paying attention to the moment does prevent dreamt up worries from engulfing everyday happiness.
Love reading your blog, thank you 🙂
This topic is very relevant to me, especially over the past few years. Having made MANY life changes the transition has not always been easy.
For me I find it’s my state of mind at the time that relates to the transition with change.
I now try to live in the now and be as spontaneous as life permits. As a mature woman I want no regret s and know that life is about the journey, to expect highs and lows. So I have to really be convinced that things are a bad idea before I don’t go with my instincts and passions. Whimsical perhaps, but the spontaneous decisions in life can often be the most rewarding. After all, some changes if not working can be changed again to make them work.
Obviously not all my decisions in life have been made so spontaneously. Change, and transition with change for me really is about evolving and I embrace it!
On a lighter note, the one spontaneous decision I have made and always regret is to change my hair style and nail colour 🙂
Have a great day
Hi Brenda, Thanks so much for your bonus tips and insights. I totally relate to the fact that life is about the journey and we should expect highs and lows. I applaud you for following your instincts and passions as so many people are held back by convention and rules. So true, if some changes don’t work then they can be changed back again and I agree that change is about growth and learning too. Ha Ha – nail colour change I can deal with but Hair Style – I once cut mine short and couldn’t look in the mirror for months I hated it (on me) so much!
This topic is very relevant to my life in recent years and is also something a lot of people fear, change and then the transition.
I have made many life changes all for many different reasons. For example health, life direction and professionally.
Not to go into personal details but fundamentally my changes were centred around regaining my identity. I moved from one city to another, where I knew one person after living in the Perth for 25 years and had a network of people in my life, ranging from friends, family and business associates. This transition from a busy lifestyle, where I had no control and lost my own identity ,to one where I was in total control and could be true to myself was a huge shock to the system. Isolation was the first change and I embraced the freedom and started a new life for myself as a 50 year old woman with drive, confidence and focus. For me change is part of life’s journey, and the transition can be as easy or as complicated as our state of mind at the time. I have found my best decisions were the ones I made spontaneously, some on a whim. Its also good for the soul to do things unexpected, theses are usually the life experiences that we benefit from the most and grow. We can get caught up in a the ‘cycle of life’ and before we know it the whirlpool has taken hold. I like to live in the now, go with my instincts and passions and ask myself, why not? If there is no real good reason, apart from fear, and if I have a positive attitude the transition with change for me is always easier. I must say all sounds very heavy for a Wednesday 🙂 …….so on a lighter note, the one spontaneous decision I always regret is change my hair style 🙂
I love your take on change and regaining your identity Brenda. Thank you for sharing because I think lots of people will be reading your comment and nodding their heads. It’s all so relevant.
Hi Jo, This is another post that women (and men) of our age group will be tackling if not already, then soon. I have never liked change. I remember bringing our babies home from hospital getting a routine established (how long between feeds) and feeling quite comfy and then bam, the baby changed it. How rude 🙂 We have long talked about selling our family home when we retire (well I am already retired) but now that the possibility is actually on the horizon I don’t feel like leaving all the memories behind. Unlike you Jo, we have only ever owned two homes and have been in the current one for 20 years. I understand your worries about leaving to gad about Europe but you will absolutely love it. As soon as you are there you won’t want to come home! How long before you leave Jo?
Thank you Jan 🙂 I can imagine leaving your home of over 20 years will be a huge wrench and I really feel for you regarding all the memories you would have created and in essence will be leaving behind. But then we don’t really leave our memories behind, they do stay with us, it’s just the physicalities that don’t move. Trust me, I’ve left one or two houses that I thought I’d die without, but I’ve found others to love and prime places for the photo albums and nikkie-nakkie-noos that have accompanied us from country to country. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words – yes I’m sure I’ll be in seventh heaven when I’m actually there!
Well I can really relate to this because of my current situation. Initially the thought of taking six months off work and travelling around Australia was very exciting, but as the day drew nearer I had a lot of anxiety. Yes anxiety! I kept finding excuses not to leave home. Now that I am 8 weeks into change I am finding it easier to deal with, except the constant text messages from my two adult children who want to complain about everything! Yes change is very hard, but is normally worth the teething period!
I can just imagine how you felt as the time for departure loomed, Kathy. But now we are being treated to such a wonderful account of your adventures, that I for one am glad you’re on the road! Oh dear, I expect your adult children are a little bit peeved at your new found freedom – but after years of putting them first (and it will be grandchildren next) I tend to rally with the idea that we only have a small window of opportunity in our mid years to get out and be free again while we are still relatively young, fit and healthy.
Janet aka Middle Aged Mama
Great tips Jo. I’ll never forget when my hubster announced at the end of 2000, that he really wanted to take 9 months off, buy a caravan and that we should take our two kids (then 7 & 4) and travel around Australia. I freaked!!! But part of me was intrigued. It was a big change and challenging for me on so many levels … but I have NEVER regretted it. In fact now the kids are grown we are hoping to do it all again in the not too distant future.
So jealous! Look forward to hearing more about this approaching adventure here on the blog!!!
Thank you Janet! Well done you guys for having such a mammoth adventure together! And that you are thinking of doing it all over again. Good on you! But I can imagine how you felt back then – I would have freaked just the same! Yes, I shall be writing more on the blog about our adventure in Europe … and also on my travel blog ZigaZag too. Thanks for commenting 🙂 Oh and a big thank you for featuring me on your blog today too 🙂
Life Images by Jill
I like that message “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass……” it was on the wall at the café we went to lunch at yesterday. Considering what one of our members is going through at moment I thought it was spot on. So when it came up in your blog today – I thought maybe the universe is trying to tell me something….
As for change – I haven’t had to make a huge life change for a long time, so I can’t really comment. BUT perhaps the reason I still work where I work is because of being afraid to take a chance to make a change…that other me in my head always bringing up negatives. Right now I am thinking about retirement in a couple of years – that is a change I welcome with open arms!
Great post Jo. Have fun on your sabbatical – it sounds awesome! just think of al the amazing experiences you will have – I wish I was coming with you! Take care xxx
That’s a coincidence Jill – I think I photographed it on a cafe blackboard in Nannup not so long ago – it’s a great message. And yes, I know, I just kept thinking ‘who am I to be writing about change’ when there is much else of more importance and heartbreak going on around us. I’m so glad that retirement isn’t too far off for you, and I know, the thought of raising the energy and making a change from a steady job when change is already on the horizon must be a tricky one. Thanks as ever xx
Wow! This post has come at a VERY opportune time for me! My husband and I are having discussions about future/retirement plannning and working out where to go from here. In addition to this, you may have encouraged the much needed rain to start gently drizzling down here in Bunbury, Western Australia. I couldn’t resist walking outside and feeling the rain on my face earlier. In fact I might just head back outside now to feel it again……
Thanks for another fabulous post!
Thanks Catherine! Yes, it was funny that the rain did indeed almost start the moment I hit “Publish!” Good luck with all your future retirement planning … I hope that the future is looking rosy and that the change will be welcomed.