Laura Gilmartin Hancock is the Campus Minister at Messmer High School. She is blessed to be accompany young people as they grow in their lives of faith, service, and leadership.
I've been thinking a lot about transitions lately. I'm not totally sure why. I don't think I'm in the midst of any great life transitions... at least not that I'm aware of yet. I mean, I know that as an educator I'm in the (awesome!) transition between one school year and the next (hello, summer vacation!!). I also know that I've just completed a major project that took years to move from the visioning stage into a lived reality. So, I do have a sense of needing to reflect on the fullness of that experience, and to consider what the impact that this project will have, not only on my personal world view, but also on how it will impact what I do as a professional.
But, beyond these two contexts, I have been unsure why "transition" has been such a strong word for me lately. I'm not getting married. I'm not changing jobs. The size of my family is not changing. I'm not going off to start college or to live in a new city. I mean, these are the major transitions of life, right? I'm not in any of them!
And still, none the less, "transition" is with me. So, instead of fighting against the word and declaring to be irrelevant at this stage of my life, I've been praying with the word and watching it rise up in my consciousness. And as I've done so, I've come to realize that I need to transition from the person I was in the world yesterday, or last year, or five years ago, into the person who is needed in the world today.
I think as an educator and as a parent I am completely comfortable with thinking of transitions within the context of developmental milestones. I've definitely exclaimed, "Ooooh, will you look at that?? My baby started walking today!!" Or, as an educator, I have transitioned from one unit of study to the next and am trained to look for the signs of readiness and proficiency. Or, even looking back at my own personal growth, I vividly remember the transition from college student into... ??? what will come next for me? This developmental transition is part of the beauty of a gap year program like 12 plus 1 for young people who are struggling with identifying their personal transition into, "what's next?"
But, putting all of this aside, I think the reason the word "transition" has been so present in my life lately is precisely because I'm not in a developmental moment. The transition occurring in my soul is the transition of daily life.
Can you relate to this?
Can you sense a tension in your soul... not a bad tension... but a tension between what was and what is being called forth TODAY? I feel it all the time. I feel it as I scroll through my various news feeds and on social media. I feel my soul wondering, "What am I being called to do here? How am I being called forth to engage in the world at this particular moment in history?" I feel it as I continually seek to be a better parent. I feel my soul stretching, "Is there another way to handle this situation? What does my child need in this particular moment to help her grow into the strong child of God that I know her to be?" I feel it as I navigate relationships of various kinds. I struggle mightily to figure out, "What are the right words to say here? How can I best respond to this situation?"
I was recently at the Milwaukee Public Museum with my family. As we typically do, we started our experience in the museum by wandering through The Streets of Old Milwaukee and generally having a fun time exploring local history. And, eventually, as we often do, my daughter and I made it down to the butterfly pavilion. This is NOT my favorite place. The butterfly pavilion has live butterflies flying around and, although the goal for my daughter is always to have one land on her, the butterflies actually kind of creep me out. However, on this visit, for the first time, I saw a display of actual, active, cocoons that were in the midst of their transition from caterpillar to butterfly. I had never noticed this display before.
And let me tell you: they are not pretty.
And that's when it hit me.
The truth is: these transitions that I'm experiencing are not monumental moments. These transitions of daily life are not the moments of getting a driver's license or getting married or divorced. They are not the cocoons of big becoming. Rather, they are often small and insignificant. So insignificant, in fact, that they can be overlooked. But when noticed as opportunities of transition, these small moments can suddenly feel huge. At least, they feel huge to me. When I become mindful of the many opportunities for daily transition in my life, I find the need to summon immense courage to live into them... and that can feel ugly, just like those cocoons. It takes tremendous courage to be aware of one's context, to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to take one more step into becoming... even when it's uncomfortable.
The transition of daily life is not made up of monumental personal milestones, like a cocoon is in the life of a butterfly. But rather, these small daily transitions from who I was to who I am called to be, can have monumental impacts on our collective experience. We have the opportunity in each of these transitional moments, throughout our days, to bring more love into our relationships, into our neighborhoods, into our workplaces, and into our shared civic spaces.
Questions for Reflection
What are the ways that you are being called into the transition of daily life?
Can you identify ways of being that no longer fit your present reality? What can you do to begin moving beyond them?
Where is your sphere of influence? How can you bring more love into those spaces?