“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
― André Gide
I have noticed that in every journey, no matter how big or small, there is a space somewhere between leaving and arriving which lives in a world outside of the actual time it takes to move from one place to another. This space doesn't comply with our sense of order, so it is impossible to predict its size or how long it may take to arrive on its other side. Specifically, this is not the space defined by the number of days or weeks or months it takes to make an outward change or the number of miles required to cross any number of literal or metaphorical oceans.
The space I'm talking about is a space which only closes - whose limits you can only truly understand - when you complete your inner arrival.
It closes when your mind and spirit or whatever you think of as your Self have finally arrived in the new world formed by whatever change you made. Can you feel what I mean by this? I mean to say there is a moment after an upheaval when you realize your journey has truly, finally ended. This moment can arrive long after the changes of the outer world are made. What I mean to describe is the moment when you have truly caught up to yourself, and the changes you made on the outside are finally complete within you.
It could be that your job is new. Or maybe you left a relationship. Maybe you started one. Maybe you changed your hair, your style, your city, or your stated purpose for living. Maybe you dove into the great sacrifice and blessing that is parenthood, or maybe you dove into the great sacrifice and blessing that is childlessness. Maybe the pieces of life around you haven't changed, but maybe the role you play and the way you express your identity within your life have transformed. There are so many ways to make a change.
Whatever your circumstance, I have noticed there is often a lag between the moment the outer world has changed and the moment the most inner self catches up to it all. I have also noticed that this space can be a lonely place, no matter how important it may be, and I have noticed it can be terrifying.
I have also noticed that respecting this space is really, really important.
I have been through a lot of transformations, and I have deeply learned in my own soul and life that change is death as much as it is birth, and there is really no way around this. The birth is beautiful, but a death of some sort is also always necessary to make space for the new life, the new dream, the new look, the new career, or the new paradigm. To make way for the new, something always has to leave. Something leaves, and I think it is in this precise space between old and new - this undefined place of isolation when the old is gone and the new has yet to completely arrive - where many people (maybe most) give up and turn back. They slam the brakes on the change process and cut it off. They cut off the conversation that took them away from their comfort zone. They revert to habits they hate but find comforting. I should say we, because I have done these things too. We sabotage the progress toward whatever the goal may be, and we fill our world with excuses and reasons why we simply can't change. We do this because change is damn hard.
The isolation point I'm talking about is that place where there are no more trumpets and cheers from bystanders supporting the boldness and bravery of a big move. It is the place where others are maybe a little bit tired of your transformations or simply caught up in their own. It's the place where the resources are lean and the terrain is truly unknown. It's the uncharted land. It's the edge you can't see beyond. This is the place where you may know which people aren't your people, but you haven't yet discovered who will take their place. This is the place where the outer world has forgotten you or maybe never even knew what you had done, and you are finally left with the unavoidable truth about whatever it is you have chosen to do and whoever it is you can finally see in the mirror. This is the place where you are right in the thick of change and you realize that even if you go back you can't ever really go back, and this is the space where you realize there is a portion of your journey you simply must, must, must without negotiation or question ... must always walk utterly and totally alone.
Many turn back now because this in-between place is terrifying and, frankly, it sucks. You can't see what you have left anymore, and you can't see where you are going yet, and you have to do some of the hardest work of your life without a shoreline or a companion anywhere to be found. The familiar tug of your old life and old habits and old identity becomes strong and comforting right when it is time to let it go, and it is so easy in this moment to just try and re-build that old life on the new land, however impossible it may ultimately be to rebuild. There is no shame in stopping, by the way. To make a leap of any kind is courageous and important, and sometimes it takes many journeys within this journey that is just life to arrive in a truly new land.
But when you know in your bones that whatever journey you have chosen is taking you beyond who you were before, and when you know there is no place in your new life for all that you were before, there is a different kind of tug on your soul because deeper transformation pulls you forward. You feel the call of that sea with no shoreline, and you know that now is the time to just let go of so many things. And yes, there will be that moment when you understand you are very, very alone, and you will realize there is no person in the world who can take the steps you alone must take to move yourself to the new place you have chosen to find.
If you are anything like me, you will mourn and grieve in this moment that feels like a death because you will understand that on the other side of it, you can never be the same. You will never be able to go back to who you were before or un-know the things you are about to learn or un-see the things you are about to see within yourself and within the world. If you are anything like me, this moment will make you pause and take a very deep breath before you journey on.
If you think that all sounds very heavy and sad, I agree with you. In the thick of it, it can tend to feel very heavy and very, very sad. But here's the thing:
There is also so much light.
There is an other side. There is an arrival, and it is the most beautiful arrrival because it is an arrival at a version of yourself and your life that is ever more true. There is nothing I have found so far that is sweeter than the feeling of settling into a more genuine expression of myself and my right life because it opens the doors to even deeper relationship with the people who are my people and even greater expression of my meaning in this life. I become so much more useful to the world and so much more joyful with each transformation I brave, and this has been worth the pain of the change every single time.
If you can make a choice to stay steady in that moment in between - in precisely that most horrible, lonely moment when it all seems like it was a very bad idea and when every external symbol you depend on to tell you where you belong has vanished - if you can hold on here, you will make it to the new shore.
You will make it to the new shore, and you will be ready to walk on it.