Oh dear...i'm so behind on my posts it is not funny. It is even less funny that I am behind on my readings and assignments for next week. This program is so seriously packed with work that I am in all kinds of stress!
But anyhow... Change is good! I read this line in one of my assigned readings and had to stop and reflect about it.
This entire move to the US to pursue my postgrad is an entire learning and change experience in itself. And it's given me so much food for thought. Given the I am in a Learning and Organizational Change program, i'm constantly stopping at concepts and relating it to my experience moving to Evanston.
One of the first books we are reading for my Foundations course is William Bridges's Managing Transitions.
I've only read 2 chapters (cos I have like a ton of other readings to do, not because it's not a good book) and find so much that echoes my own experiences.
He writes about the importance of managing transitions in the change process. These transition phase can begin long before the actual change and end long after the change takes place. Managing transitions is about helping people through 3 phases:
1. Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had. This first phase of transition is an ending, and the time you need to help people to deal with their losses.
2. Going through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn't fully operational. We call this time the 'neutral zone': its when the critical psychological realignments and re-patterning takes place.
3. Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop a new identity, experience the new energy, and discovery the new sense of purpose that make the change begin to work
It's quite amazing, reflecting back on my own change journey, how I had also gone through these phases.
The Letting Go phase
for me started long before all the plans for the move were even confirmed. Conversations with my bosses and my colleagues about my plans to move here, questions on how they would find a replacement, how we could keep the team stable started me on my transition of letting go.
The people who worked with me would tell you that letting go was not easy for me. I wanted to cling on for dear life. Partly because I love the work, but also because I was afraid of who I was or would be without the work. Work has defined my identity and existence for so long, it's who I am. So much so that letting go of the work, was downright frightening for me! It wasn't relief I felt the last day of work. It was anguish, even with all the support and help I had received during that phase.
Saying goodbye to work was one phase of letting go, another phase of letting go was then the saying goodbye to my home and my family. That was a phase in the transition that I had not thought much about. I definitely felt the emotional impact of that even more, tearing and crying while I packed up my house. That's why my packing took so long. My emotions would bubble up and get in the way of me doing anything. Support from friends, always a watsapp message away, helped me, heaps!
The Neutral Phase
was this crazy jet-lagged phase which I had only survived because of 2 fellow Singaporean friends, who basically held our hands through this phase. It was literally the "psychological no man's land between the old-reality and the new one. It is the limbo between the old sense of identity and the new."
Hubs and I spent one or two nights, during this phase, just talking about how difficult the experience was. I even wondered whether I had made the right decision by moving out here, and feeling so far removed from anything I was familiar with (aside from Fern and Stanley). It was always being in a limbo between being so excited about being here and at the same time wishing we were home.
We are definitely at the The New Beginning Phase
now. But only just, maybe in the last few days or so. We've settled down, feeling more comfortable now that we are mobile, know where we can get things we need and comfortably assuming our new identities now. Me as a Northwestern grad student and my family as F2 visa holders in a foreign land. =)
If there's one thing I've learnt about myself over this period is that I am not as confident, independent and fearless as I thought I was. The only reason anyone might think those things about me is because I have this amazing network of support, that is working 24/7, 7 days a week to help me, in ways that were truly invisible to me until recently, so that I can do what I do on a daily basis.
On a personal level, moving to Chicago was worth it. Because just the process of moving here, helped me realize all the things I need, and am truly grateful for:
1. The family back home who support, love and care for my family and I.
2. The wonderful people I work with, and work for, who make everyday meaningful. Who challenge me, provide me the space to learn and grow, and forgive me for being less than perfect, in every sense of the world.
3. For being able to do meaningful and purposeful work.
4. The friends and family who encourage and support me, and remind me to keep my eyes on the ball. Who repeat again and again how confident they are in me, that they may be the only reasons why I believe in myself.
5. The friends who hold my hands, watch our boys and feed us, so that we don't lose our way in our transition (you know who you are!)
So if nothing else, this experience would have helped me realize how much love, care and support I have around me, which I have definitely taken for granted! And I think, that's already a big win for me.
So change is good, at least in my case! Keep your mind and heart open to the possibilities of learning and discovery!