The end of August means more than the impending close of another summer. For students across the country, it means the beginning of a new semester. It means change and adjustment—whether with classes, goals or relationships. For freshmen or transfers, the transition to a new campus presents an exhilarating yet daunting season of life in a new and unfamiliar town.
And students are not the only ones facing transition. In our nomadic, in-flux, individualistic society, twenty- and thirtysomethings seem to be always on the move. If it’s not college or grad school, it’s uprooting for a new job, a new relationship, a new adventure. For some, the move means an exciting new beginning; for others, it’s a time of trepidation and doubt. And though things like Facebook and Twitter make it easier than ever to stay in touch, that doesn’t change the fact that you are facing a new start in a new community—an experience that can be lonely and difficult.
Growing up with a military father who was transfered every few years, I moved and traveled throughout the course of my life. We started out in Iowa and worked our way to the East Coast. After living overseas in Guam, we moved back to the States, where I eventually went to college in Florida. In those transitions, I slowly learned what it took to embrace our new town and make friends. As a child, naturally I was under my parents’ leading, so my job was to adjust, endure and grow in the process. Then, as an adult, it all changes. We have to make choices for ourselves. We have to be intentional about finding our place, meeting new people, developing a community. And we quickly learn the importance of looking to God for direction and leading—an essential piece that has not only helped me develop into who I am now, but has also proven important in finding peace in times of transition.
What has made all the difference is hearing God’s voice on where to be, what to be involved with, how to engage. I am continually reminding myself of one thing: Be present where you are called.
Transitions can be difficult, but reminding ourselves of how God has directed us enables us to rest in knowing we are in the right place. It’s important that we continually ask Him how to be better engaged wherever we are. Are we actively learning and doing all He has for us? It’s easy to get sidetracked by loneliness, or focusing on the past, or wishing we were somewhere else. It’s easy to relegate this time as just another phase of our lives, something we have to simply get through to arrive where we want to be. But I’ve come to realize that that’s exactly what we can’t do—write off or rush through whatever stage we are in. We need to remember why we are there in the first place and focus on finding contentment, whatever the circumstances.
Perhaps my most difficult period of transition occurred when I moved to Colorado in 2006. My boyfriend—now husband—and I moved back to his hometown from Florida. We both felt sure this was what we were supposed to do, but that didn’t make it any easier for me. My family wasn’t with me this time. I had no friends, no job. Even for someone like me, being used to uprooting my life doesn’t always ease a new transition.
I had the wisdom to know it would all work out, but it was still uncomfortable and I desperately missed my old church family. The support of my boyfriend and those around me proved critical. Beyond that, there are some things I did—and you can, too—to get involved in the community:
•Check out the local calendar of events. Check out concerts and happenings unique to your area. Just last week my husband and I attended "Movie Night at Red Rocks," where everyone sits in tiered seating in a natural amphitheater created on the side of a mountain. Thousands of locals attended, and we enjoyed being with others in a beautiful place.
•Learn something new. Take a local class or join a group to learn Italian, painting, cooking, yoga, etc., and meet people with similar interests. Right now I am taking sewing lessons from a lady in Littleton. You will meet new people while learning a skill.
•Volunteer at a local organization. Get involved in serving your community—and do so with a group of friends. My house church and I attended a training seminar on becoming sponsors of a refugee family. One week later we were assigned a family who was flying in that week.
•If someone invites you to something, go. You never know who you will meet or what you will discover by trying something new, even if it’s not something you would typically do. My old roommate is a connector. She always knows what’s going on. We met up for coffee one afternoon, and the next thing I knew, I was attending a poetry slam with her. Her spontaneity is good for me.
•Support your local college or city sport teams. I never went to a professional hockey game until last year, when I saw the Colorado Avalanche play. It is always a blast getting familiar with your local team. And now that I am teaching at a new school, I will be attending our students’ basketball games and track meets, which will enable me to connect with them—and others—on another level.
•Start a book group. My friend and I felt led to start a group in our neighborhood, which has a large homosexual community. We want to get to know our neighbors and show them love. The group starts in a few weeks.
I have lived in Colorado for two years now, and my husband and I are continually working on getting more involved in our community. This spring our church volunteered to sponsor an incoming refugee family from Bhutan. Now I get to watch and help this family experience their own transition. It has been hard for them, not knowing the language, the expectations, the customs, the rules of this new country. They have faced this challenge without a car or steady income. Just this week I helped their son enroll in school. The look on their faces was priceless as they watched their son meet his new teacher. Watching their courage, faith and hope as they overcome an overwhelming new change has been inspiring for me.
Most of us haven’t faced a transition as dramatic as that, but we all face transitions on some level. Not only do we need to seek God’s direction, but we have to actively participate in the process. Investing yourself wherever you are at the present time is crucial to adjusting and becoming a part of the community. Put yourself out there and let God inspire you, stretch you and grow you. By accepting the responsibility of jumping in headfirst, we accept the here and now, however foreign it may seem at first. And, as I’ve discovered over and over again, the new may seem overwhelming, but eventually, the new becomes the norm.