By Kelly M. Chapman, Authentic Leadership Coach and Owner at Meredith Whole Living Center
Just over eight years ago, I spent a month on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala working toward my yoga teacher certification. One of the most important lessons I returned with came from a presentation from a fellow classmate on the importance of understanding and honoring the seasons of our lives. As we transition from winter to spring, I’m reminded of the insights she shared and their relevance to this unique moment in time, most importantly because they remind us to honor where we truly are and not where we believe we ought to be.
The first season is spring. This is the time of possibilities. Everything feels exciting, and an abundant and almost overwhelming number of opportunities present themselves. Examples of springtimes in our lives, when we haven’t yet settled on a path, are when exploring courses before choosing a major, expanding career options, and dating.
Eventually, spring turns to summer and we commit to a path born of springtime’s possibilities. These are the years we get lost in our careers, relationships and/or child-rearing. Summers are often the most comfortable season to be in, as our culture values the confidence, stability and productivity we’re likely to display while we’re in them. We’re focused, in our stride, and may feel as though the choices we’ve made define who we are to our core.
That is until they don’t, which brings us to autumn. The autumns of our lives occur when those parts of us that had once felt so right and secure begin to wind down naturally or lose the vibrancy they once had. We may even begin to get the urge to shake off certain roles or parts of ourselves. Examples of autumns in our lives are gearing up for a last child to leave the home, the decision to move forward with a divorce, or the knowing that it’s time to switch career paths or retire.
It’s after these times when winter hits. We regroup, reflect and often grieve. We might pull back and require additional stillness and solitude. In a culture that values productivity and certainty, winters can be the most uncomfortable season to endure. We might grow impatient or lose hope that springtime will ever come again, until it does.
As we welcome our hemisphere’s spring season after the one year anniversary of our world changing beyond our wildest expectations, it’s important to acknowledge that the spring weather may not necessarily signal a springtime in our lives, and that’s ok. We’ve all been stretched and challenged in unique ways this past year, and the unexpected losses and possibilities the pandemic created have left us each in incredibly unique situations that likely would have felt implausible thirteen months ago. By accepting where we are as part of the natural seasons of life, we can let go of reservations or shame around where we are, and honor our unique needs in this moment. We can also have faith that if the current season is an uncomfortable one, it won’t last forever and eventually we’ll find our way back to possibility and choosing.
Regardless of which season you find yourself in, be gentle with yourself and consider keeping this framework in mind to normalize future transitions you may have. In the years since my time in Guatemala, I’ve been comforted many times simply by being reminded that it’s entirely natural to go through these phases in life and that I’m not alone in experiencing them. I hope it does the same for you.