Diane L. Dunton
Waking Up With New Eyes
It’s always interesting to read social media posts on Facebook and LinkedIn from friends and colleagues who have decided to retire. Some mention looking forward to more time with family, perhaps helping with grandchildren or an opportunity to fish or travel more. Others dream about resuming a long-abandoned hobby or starting a new one, doing more charity or community work, or learning something completely new.
Anxiety, excitement, and apprehension can accompany any life change, including retirement. This is especially true as we leave behind a defined professional role. Transitioning to a new role involves reexamining our values, needs, interests, abilities, and desires. A new role may look very different from the one we’ve inhabited in years past.
In his book, Transitions; Making Sense of Life’s Changes, the late William Bridges wrote about what he called “the neutral zone,” that place where one’s emotions are mixed as an ending is apparent, yet a new beginning has not quite yet formed. Though it may be unsettling to some, living in this neutral zone can be a very exciting time! Imagine waking up with new eyes, seeing things not as you have in the past but from a completely different vantage point. Experiencing this fresh perspective can be exhilarating.
As a photographer, I’ve always loved taking landscape shots of sunrises and sunsets. Recently, I started taking more nature photos of birds. The birds we have here in Maine are absolutely breathtaking, but this month as spring leaves have burst open on the trees and bushes, the birds have become harder to locate. Whether by the water, along a forest path, or in a city park, one must listen intently, still and quiet, and wait with patience for an opportunity to actually see the birds (if I can’t see them, I can’t photograph them!). Because my previous focus as a photographer was on landscapes, I’ve only now begun to realize the variety of birds in my own backyard. Now I’m noticing the mewling call of the catbird and the contrasting colors of its leaden gray body feathers and rust-colored undertail. I am waking up with new eyes to see with. It is a gift!
Are you in or preparing to enter the neutral zone? If so, it’s important to remember that the pace of transitioning is unique to each individual. A transition that is quickly and easily made by one person may take another much longer—and that’s perfectly okay. Choosing to embrace change, and even the natural anxiety, excitement and apprehension that are a natural part of it, can be liberating. When you begin to see with new eyes, life is open for exploration. Your opportunities for taking on new roles and redefining who you want to be in your next act will only be limited by your vision!
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