As I left my old office yesterday I was thinking ahead to next week, imagining handing over my keys and wiping my name off the in/out board by the front desk on my last official day at my old place of work.
There was something striking about imagining that. Enough so that my breath caught in my throat and I felt my heart heavy in my chest.
Driving home I was pondering this sensation, wondering what this mix of feeling around ending and leaving and starting new things is. It isn’t just sadness, though that is mixed in there. There is more to it than that; it feels more nuanced, more complex.
I think the best way to describe it is a deconstruction. Thinking of erasing my name from the board is an undoing of sorts, a tearing down of all that I had put together for more than 5 years. And even though I am ready for it to be dismantled, there’s a certain heaviness to this act of undoing. Kind of like when kids have to take down their blanket fort – it was good while it lasted, but the space is needed for other things. When it’s time to tear down, there are often still shoulders hung low and trembling lips at the thought of having to fold it back up and return the room to it’s normal state.
This has been a really strange process these past six months, this undoing of I all had worked to build up in one particular place. It’s a dismantling of the structures and rhythms and relationships that have been carefully built, and I find there to be something very counter-intuitive about the whole process as I seek to erase evidence of my presence from a place where I had at one point worked so hard to make a name for myself.
Perhaps this is where the tension lies, in the necessity of having to deconstruct in order to make room for more growth. It’s bittersweet. It’s hard. Parts of it are exciting, and other parts are excruciatingly difficult. In order for me to expand and grow in a different space it is necessary to tear down this present structure, and rebuilt it differently elsewhere.
Driving home I found myself wondering where else people may experience a similar type of deconstruction. Surely it pertains to more than career transitions? What came to mind for me in pondering this process were the changes and shifts that come with divorce, and how that, too, can be an experience of slowly (or sometimes swiftly) dismantling that which was carefully put together. Selling the house, dividing up the things purchased together, changing last names back to maiden names – an undoing of the original joining together.
Transitions into married life, parenting, empty-nesting, life without parents…these junctures all too have space for some element of deconstruction and reconstruction.
I wonder what would happen if we had more language by which to communicate the simultaneous dismantling and reestablishing that happens during times of movement from one stage or place to another?
What if new parents knew that part of creating space in their lives for their new babies meant needing to take apart some pieces of their old lives, and rebuilding them to include this new person – and that this is hard work. That this may make them twinge with regret. That they may wonder if they can do it, or if it’s worth it, and that this is normal to feel this way! What if we equipped divorced folk to really grieve and lament all the work that they had put into creating a life with their partner, and helped validate how excruciating it is to have to deconstruct a reality rather than just urging them to find someone new to deposit into the old structure? What if we were sensitive to the ways parents who launch kids may wander aimlessly when stripped of their role as ‘needed parent’ when their kids leave home, and give them time to miss the old shape before assuming they’re in love with their new freedom?
I think seeing deconstruction as potential part of transition may help provide a way for folks to understand the sense of loss that can accompany changes; when we can suspend judgement of our reactions and instead engage compassionately with what we are experiencing perhaps we will be able to create more space for all the feelings and responses that we have to new life circumstances.