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The Trials and Tribulations of Transition

August, 2009
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  Transition is like a jellyfish. With long, transparent tentacles, which sear like fire when they come in contact with skin, it can silently swim into our lives, sometimes unnoticed. It dances circles around you, its beautiful ballet of hope for a new life and a new adventure. Mesmerized, you reach out to touch it. Yes, yes, you say, let’s pack up and move, let’s grow up, let’s change. Your fingers are not far now; you can almost feel the silk of its head, of your new existence…and then it stings.

  But putting the dramatics aside, let’s back up. We all go through transitions in our lives. Some are mundane and normal, some are calmingly assuring, and some are warm and welcoming…but there are some that are horribly life altering. There are those transitions in your life that bring you back a step; that make you feel like you are hanging upside-down, viewing the world from a different angle. They are the jellyfish, they are the stingers. They brand you like war scars, bring you to your knees, and make you learn the meaning of adulthood. They make you learn to pick yourself up and trudge on in life.

  As an international student, these types of transitions are unavoidable. In fact, life presents them to us on silver platters. “Here you go,” Life says as it slyly places the dish in front of you. “Eat your heart out.”
 
  "But I don’t want this; I don’t need this right now. Things have just begun to go well for me. Not now, please!” You yell and plead. And then you hear Life chuckle, like you have many times before. It mocks you.
 
  So you end up going through long, difficult moves where you leave behind your friends and family to start again somewhere new. Or you helplessly watch as your best friend, your boyfriend or your girlfriend has to leave you, moving away only to slowly lose touch. Or you find time is being stolen from you as you are forced to grow up before you feel ready. Just when you think you are finding your way to stable ground, life goes on and tosses you overboard again.
 
  So how do we deal with this? How do we go from one place in life to the next without preparation? How do we keep writing new chapters without resentment?
 
  "I believe that life is a series of rooms,” said Jared Vaughn Davis, a New Yorker who recently moved to Beijing. “I believe that it’s all about the time you spend in each room before you move on to the next. It’s about the people and things that you meet and matter to you whilst you are in that room. It makes you cherish everything you love. We just need to be prepared to move from one room to the next; not letting it tear us to pieces, not letting it tear us apart.
 
  "The past writes the future. There will always be a window to look backwards, but the door is always closed to look forwards. You just need to be prepared to walk through that door when the time comes. It’s a concept I suppose.”
 
  Jared speaks about what it was like growing up, moving from school to school; leaving behind all the people he met and loved. In total, Jared has been to 12 different schools and lived in 10 different countries. Now in New York studying graphic design, Jared reflects upon life as an international student.
 
  "I used to envy those who had lived their entire lives in one town where they grew up with the same friends who they later went to the same schools with,” said Jared. “I used to envy people at university who would say ‘Oh, her and I have been friends since we were in diapers!’ But as time went on, I realized that I was actually the lucky one. I was lucky to have been able to experience all these different cultures and people. I have been exposed to so much poverty and suffering; I feel like I am open to the way people are and I try to understand them. The constant moving and shifting of friends, although painful and heart wrenching, has brought us international kids to a level of maturity and self-understanding that many are forever searching for.”
 
  Growing up is the hardest transition that everyone has to go through, Jared says. “The transition is not even really there. Life just sort of pushes you into the deep-end, forcing you to learn how to swim on your own. Those major stages in growing up, like moving into middle school or high school, are tough, especially when your body is changing and you are exploring the concept of self and identity.”
 
  "It’s all part of life, really,” Jared goes on to say. “Without difficulties how will we grow? It makes you learn the art of picking yourself up.”
 
  We shouldn’t be afraid of transitions, of moving on to the “next room”. People change so much every five years, Jared says. When you look back, you can hardly recognize yourself. Whether you want to or not, your tastes change, your opinions change. Showing me old photographs of his childhood, Jared points out the different phases he went through during his teenage years.
 
  "I had a punk phase, where I listened to music that brought out the rebel side of my adolescence. Then I had a rock phase where I listened to Pink Floyd and the like. I wore ripped t-shirts and grungy pants and such. And then I had a classical phase where I got really into jazz and blues. I remember my first job. I was forced to wear a suit and tie,” Jared reminisces. “Now I can’t go to work without getting into office attire! It just doesn’t feel right!”
 
  Everyone goes through transitions differently. Some people embrace it while others find it hard to adjust. Nevertheless, we must all experience them at some point and discover how to emerge from them. It is something that cannot be taught. We all carry the battle wounds of change. But these scars shape us. They shape the curves and lines of our faces, of our personalities. It makes us who we are.
 
  "Life is like a boxing match,” Jared says. “It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, the only thing that matters is how many times you get back up.”
 
By Amelia Yan

 

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