An outdoors photo of a woman in a fedora looking over her shoulder

It seemed like I had stumbled into it—this unrelenting season of transition. Sure, I had made the decision to move. A practical attempt to save money so I could eventually graduate from the rental market. Of course, the path to California “homeowner” included a detour that landed me, of all places, in Tennessee. Living with family, no less.

All in the name of a brighter future.

There I was, unpacking my things in a borrowed bedroom, my days no longer subject solely to my own whims. I missed my freedom, my midday hikes and the ability to find my way to the ocean as often as I needed to replenish my soul. The truth is, I rarely made it to the beach, but I would! I told myself, if only I was back.

I missed my freedom, my midday hikes and the ability to find my way to the ocean as often as I needed to replenish my soul.

Oh, how my heart fills with nostalgia for the way I imagine things used to be—a romanticized version of my past that seems to pause my present and that robs me of whatever joy the present might have. I find myself in the land of hiatus, like a seed planted deeply in rich soil, pummeled every so often with rain. At first, my thirst is quenched, but soon after I question whether I’m drowning.

Surely, change cannot be this painful. Growing cannot hurt this much.

It doesn’t take long to question my choices and retrace my steps, trying to figure out if I somehow veered off the wrong path. Upon reflection, I remember the circumstance that brought me here and how certain I was of the choice I was making at that moment. Yet, the doubt creeps in, taunting me, making me feel like a tree without roots.

It is tempting, in the face of transition, to allow my life to idle. I can trick myself into believing that joy is destined to elude me in this season, that I must grit my teeth until the next milestone. However, the hopeful part of me wants me to figure out how to make happiness a priority—a practice— here and now.

The hopeful part of me wants me to figure out how to make happiness a priority—a practice— here and now.

My first step toward mitigating the frustration that comes with change is to get grounded. In the face of everything new, I am craving what’s familiar. So I completely unpack my things, file-folding my clothes into drawers and neatly hanging my pared down wardrobe in the closet.

Afterward, I notice I’m a few pieces shy of even a minimalist wardrobe, so I decide to invest in a small number of well-made items to fill the gaps. When they arrive—a light floral dress, comfortable sandals and a flattering pair of sage biker shorts—a spark of something (joy, maybe?) briefly fills my heart.

And so, I decide to claim even more of this foreign space as my own. I rearrange the furniture in my favorite room to accommodate the desk and chair I brought from home. Surrounded by windows on all sides, my view is now the enclosed back porch where my puppy likes to lay in the lap of the sun.

I find myself waking up early just to sit in this corner and write. As my fingers touch the keys, I can hear the soft hum of the diffuser behind me misting lavender into the air. For a moment, I forget to be anywhere else.

In an effort to interrupt the lull of the day, I go on frequent walks. In doing so, I become increasingly acquainted with nearly every dog in a mile radius, and subsequently their owners. At first we chat about the weather, but soon they ask if I can feed their birds when they’re on vacation and join the bonfire in their backyard.

And so, I decide to claim even more of this foreign space as my own.

This is temporary, I want to shout, but I’m too busy impaling a marshmallow on a stick.

It occurs to me that, despite being at what I considered a rest stop on the way to where I wanted to go, life does not have rest stops. While this season may offer me a chance to catch my breath, it is not an intermission.

Since this is not a dress rehearsal, I say “yes” when asked to sushi. I say “yes” again when asked on a date. The floral dress I bought comes in handy. My weekends fill with dog parks, juice runs and church services to boot. Before I know it, I belong to a book club, and my quota for quality time is suddenly met. Connection, it seems, is a healing force, even in the in-between.

It’s in this place that I find myself dreaming again. About a future that just a short time ago felt out of my reach. I buy a template for a new website to evolve my blog into a brand. I take up macramé and browse properties in Santa Barbara for sport. I start a travel board in Milanote with my best friend, dropping in images of Italy, and the like.

While this season may offer me a chance to catch my breath, it is not an intermission.

Having something to look forward to, it turns out, produces hope. Yet, living where my toes touch the ground brings contentment that sets me free. To thrive in the midst of change means giving myself grace as I grow, process and attempt—little by little—to infuse this unfamiliar space with people and moments that make me smile, even as I wait for what’s to come.

How have you learned to be present in your current season of life? Why is it important to not always keep our eyes fixed on the future nor the past?

Image via Jennifer Callahan

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