I need a show of hands: Who else out there goes through occasional drastic transformation throughout your life?
I’m getting a fascinating set of reactions to the slow-motion, but very present, shifts happening in mine.
A friend asked me last week by way of catching up about what kinds of outdoor adventures I’d been getting into this winter. I stared off for a moment before I realized: none, really. Sure, I’d had some travel out of state, which could qualify as adventure. But when I thought of my usual, Alaska activities — a ski out to hot springs, fat biking to the glacier, hiking snowy-sided mountains and sledding down — I realized I was coming up short.
It seems I’ve been undergoing a long transition to shift where I put my focus and energy. This happened partly by accident. During peak COVID-19 lockdown, I had to funnel much of my energy internally and down versus out — there was nowhere else for it to go when I was so isolated for so long.
Back then I half-jokingly informed my husband that I, too, was becoming an introvert. His reaction was, shall we say, strong — he vehemently denied me access to “his” domain; other introverted friends echoed him.
But recently I doubled back on that topic with him for the first time since lockdown days, and he quickly and casually affirmed that I have, in fact, become much more introverted over the past few years. He said he needed to witness more choice points on my part to believe it and he now had enough data to award me an official introvert card (apparently, only introverts can issue them).
So, that was the chance element of my slow transformation. There was a choice there, too: post-lockdown, I realized I was enjoying sinking my somewhat intense focus into the areas of my life I wanted to develop more, such as art and economic and geographic freedom, versus outdoor exploits and social organizing.
This combination of a positive feedback loop of gleaning more energy from my own time and company, while simultaneously reinvesting my energy deeply in those areas of my choosing, started to reshape me even without me being fully aware of the magnitude.
I ask for the show of hands of others who undergo transformations like this because I think we live in a world that increasingly supports, and will support, shift.
Enter me being a full-blown “old” (that’s fine, I like it here) but where this really hits home for me is the notion of having eras. A friend’s 11-year-old asserted that her mom is in her “fiction era” as she inhales novel after novel during this season of life. Taylor Swift, of course, has helped cement the phrase in the culture with her ongoing tour. But there’s something here that also ties into what is not only possible, but acceptable within our lives.
I grew up back east with the notion that deciding what I wanted to be when I grow up, picking a path to get there, and then staying on that track is how one creates a life. I don’t ascribe blame to this, even though on further reflection this is absolutely not my preferred life or patterning at all — it’s just how the dominant culture, both in Massachusetts and even nationally/generationally, has been set up. In a more industrialized society with increasingly (hopefully) outmoded gender expectations, the name of the game was consistency and stability.
Enter our modern era where along with the pace of life, the opportunities and challenges have exploded, and suddenly dynamism is perhaps more of an asset. Is it time to throw the more traditional career track out? Absolutely not — but now, it’s not the “only” way.
What I’m getting to with all of this is the newer, younger concept of having an “era” in anything makes it much more normal to undergo different life phases.
I don’t know what era I’m in. Is it my introverted era? Sort of. Is it my focused, deeply experiencing, artist and writer, while still an appreciator but not extreme-outdoors person, era? That feels like it’s getting warmer. Other patterns that are more pronounced in me these days are a far-reduced consumption of alcohol as I explore, in ways that are surprising to me, how good I feel without it; and a drastically reduced willingness to spend energy where I don’t want to.
My lived experience in this era is one of overriding contentment, punctuated with occasional surprise at the reaction I get from others in response to my (perhaps drastic) personal changes.
I’m still here. I’m just in this era of mine, however that is or isn’t defined. I find that I enjoy looking at the mountains these days versus trying to haul myself to the top of them; I like to go on planless, aimless runs just to feel good vs. training for races. My focus is on trying to find enjoyment in these day-to-day, moment-to-moment experiences as they take place. If that collectively counts toward creating an era, I hope this one lasts a long time.