What to Do When the In-Between Feels Like the Upside-Down

The first time I remember experiencing a significant transition was the summer between first and second grade. We moved from our tiny house in Calhoun, GA to an even tinier apartment in a retirement community on the outskirts of Atlanta. (Don’t even ask).

I didn’t want to go. I swore that when I was old enough to buy my own house with my own family I’d move back there. I’d move back to Calhoun—that rural town known for its carpet factories, paper mills, and distant Jimmy Carter kin.

It was the best house in the entire world.

Except it wasn’t.

A couple of years ago, I happened to be passing through Calhoun, and guess what? The old homestead is still there.


The first house I really remember.

Single Family Ranch

3 BR/2 BA

1 Car Garage

(The new owners thought it would be fun to enclose the garage, pull up the shrubs that used to frame the house, and add window units for air conditioning. The effect is charming, as you can tell)

I never dreamed I’d live in another house as wonderful and beautiful as this one. I never knew what was possible because prior to leaving this little piece of paradise, I had never experienced transition. Transition is the in-between that allows us to dream big dreams. That first sorrowful goodbye was one of many that actually paved the way to a future filled with more blessing than I could have ever dreamed or imagined.

It was the transition that made it possible.

Although I don’t think that houses and cars and things in general mean you have arrived, this house is a tangible, physical symbol of what was in the midst of my parents’ dreams of what could be. Back then, the world was not as connected as it is today. We needed to move in order to have access to the kind of education and work opportunities that would allow our family to thrive.

Thriving is the goal, and transition is part of growing up. We just sent our oldest daughter to college. She’s in a state of transition, and I have to be honest—I did not do a good job of preparing her for it, even though I learned all about transition at the age of seven. Maybe she is reading this blog post. If so, this is what I want her to know:

1) Be realistic about your expectations. Change is inevitable. Transition is scary because we don’t know what the future holds, but everything in our past—yes, everything—can be leveraged to help us prepare for what’s next. Don’t expect the future to look like the past, but use the best parts of your past to shape an unknown future.

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.
— Albert Einstein

2) Before and during the transition, create margin for what’s next. Sometimes, I think two of the hardest things to do in life are quitting things and getting rid of things. When you’re in a season of transition, you can do both—guilt free. It’s an opportunity to start over. You get to redefine who you are by cutting all the extra stuff you don’t need out of your life. Declutter that closet! Clear that calendar! Edit those friendships! Reset your mindset for every new adventure ahead.

3) Set boundaries. By definition, transitions are fuzzy. They’re the in-between of what was and what will be. Since my daughter is starting a new season at college, we had to set boundaries at home. I didn’t want her to return here for six weeks. College is an exciting time of self discovery. How can she do that healthily if she’s back here with mom and dad every weekend? We love our daughter, but we know that if she’s too comfortable here she will never take the painful steps necessary for independence.

4) Give grace to yourself. You might feel lonely, out of place, worry that you’ve made a terrible decision, or just be wondering when the heck things are going to get better. You are stronger than you think. You can do hard things. No one expects you to be a superstar right from the get-go. A question I like to ask myself during awkward transitions is this: “What kind of person do I want to be while I’m doing this?”

5) As we embark on new adventures, we often look to what other people are doing for guidance. I love people, and I have a strong network of mentors, advisors, accountability partners, and plain old good friends. I seek their counsel, even though I don’t always follow their advice. They are human, and they make mistakes too. The tendency, though, is to look to our friends who are transitioning with us. Sometimes they are just as dumb as we are. Our decisions are complex and multi-layered and never made in a vacuum. Do not judge their choices. Instead, learn from them. We already talked about giving grace to ourselves. It’s equally important to give grace to others.

6) When the in-between feels like the upside-down, look up and give thanks. Gratitude and generosity work in every season. It’s impossible to be bitter and thankful at the same time. And remember earlier, when we talked about creating margin? THIS IS WHY. You now have the capacity to be generous—with your thoughts, with your words, with your actions.

7) Generosity, when given away, is an investment—an investment in your future. The transition will be over before you know it, and you will be free to dive deep into a future filled with possibility. While every transition is different, who we are on the other side of the metamorphosis is someone a little wiser, a little more open to change. Open your hands and your heart and let go of the past. Watch it float away, because when we become the best version of ourselves the world around us becomes better too.

Good luck, my friend (and my daughter).

Remember: Every transition results in a transformation. It’s not a different you, just a better you. And may your dreams always be bigger than the car you drive or the house where you live.