Transitions and Reflections
Posted on May 29, 2015
There is a lot in flux right now in my life. Selling and buying a house, the whole moving process, growing a flourishing new nonprofit, and a diversity in training audiences, which now includes libraries and schools. All of these professional and personal transitions are happening as my wife finishes up her school year and the weather up in the mountains is more like winter than late May (it has snowed or hailed about half the days this month).
Moving back to Denver has been an interesting experience on many levels. I moved from my home state of Indiana to Denver in the summer of 2000. This move happened a few days after my last final for my Masters in Psychology and a few days prior to starting my Masters in Business Administration in Healthcare. The transition from the topic of psychology, which I was very confident with, to business and leadership, which I knew almost nothing about, was about as extreme as the transition from the flatlands of Indiana to the Rocky Mountains.
I packed up a few things and headed west. I didn’t know anyone or have a job, any money to speak of, a place to live, or even a bed to sleep in. Looking back, the logic and execution of the move seems about as crazy as it sounds. But there was something more powerful that pulled me towards Denver. The summer before my senior year in high school, I took a family vacation and saw the West for the first time. I had a basketball tournament in Las Vegas, so we flew into Denver and made a loop to the south via New Mexico and Arizona before the tourney, and a loop north through Montana and the Dakotas afterwards.
Even eight years after the trip, the awe of the West pulled me out of the relative comfort and security of family, friends, and a decent job. When it is all said and done, this decision may have been the biggest one in my life. In Denver, I befriended some truly amazing people who seem more like family than friends, met my wonderful wife Sarah, and eventually was part of creating the nonprofit I always dreamed of working for.
Eight years ago, my wife and I had an opportunity to move up to the mountains. For many in Colorado, a life in the mountains is a dream often saved for retirement. Life put us in a great position to make this jump in our 30s, and we have had eight great years in the small town of Nederland.
The move back to Denver is again filled with excitement, some loss, and meaning. Living in the mountains, you feel somewhat removed from the world. You can’t really see our neighbors from our house, and there is a beautiful isolation that occurs. This isolation has been both a place of peace (Coldspring Center is named after the valley in which our house is located) and creativity. Ironically, it is the result of this creativity and working my butt off to build an expertise in trauma that pulls us back to Denver.
Many stories have characters that spend time in the “wilderness,” where they have found peace, knowledge, and strength. While I’m not sure my “wilderness,” with dishwashers, internet, and God knows how many satellite TV channels, is the “wilderness” of legends, it has played a very important role in the story of my life. In my twenties, I moved to Capitol Hill in Denver, searching for a new kind of life; now, in my forties, I move back to Denver to realize the potential I believes lies inside of me and that I’ve been building up in my time in my “wilderness.”
Just as a vacation played a critical role on the decision to originally move to Denver, I look to another one in a much different way. Way before the decision to move, we had planned a vacation with some great friends to Northern Europe. I have never been to another continent and while I’m a true American Mutt, most of my ancestors come from this general area.
While the logic of a two week vacation in the middle of selling and buying a home seems crazy (and trust me it is!), I think it couldn’t have worked out better. Overtaken by the pace of modern life, we miss opportunities to appreciate the power of transitions and change. We jump right into next stage, without much time for reflection.
I was lucky to have a wise man, my barber, say something really important to me my senior year of high school. He said, “Before you leave for college, go get a Blizzard (at the Dairy Queen across from my high school) and think about all the good times you had in high school. These years were the best of your life and you should sit with them before rushing off to the next thing.” Luckily, my life has been getting better and better ever since high school, but I’ve kept the wisdom in Mike’s suggestion.
I have learned to take a moment with things during transitions. Whether this is a move, leaving a job, or after a great training or conference, I take a moment to breathe and let the experiences sink in a little. “Sitting with them,” as Mike told me years ago, has allowed me to gain a sense of closure and appreciation that I would have never gotten if I just jumped right into the next apartment, job, flight, and training. While Mike’s advice stays with me, I’ve never gone to a place where I don’t know the language, culture, or what to expect as a way to reset life! Should be fun!!
I want to finish this post with a thank you. Each of you have been a critical part of my personal and professional journey. Just four years ago, I was looking for a trauma expert to help us complete the vision for what became the Trauma Informed Excellence® curriculum. After a couple of attempts, I just went for it and started to build this expertise within myself. Since I started this journey, I have gotten to meet some of the greatest people from all over the country and the world. What started as a way to move something I was passionate about forward become an amazing intellectual, emotional, and spiritual journey, and, now, a job I love more than any other I’ve ever had.
My challenge to you this week is to think about transitions in your life. Take a moment to appreciate the power and impact these transitions have had on you, both personally and professionally. It is never too late to mentally have a Blizzard and sit with your experiences.