If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, July 27, 2008


This month's Scientiae Carnival is on transitions. I'm all about transitions. It is hard for me to find a solid chunk of my life where I wasn't transitioning in some way or another. I live transitions and I study transitions.

Transitions are times of vulnerability and stress but are also windows of opportunity for positive change. In the behavioral sciences we like to study people as they transition and, for those of us who are applied researchers, to intervene.

Many transitions occur at specific measurable points in a person's lifetime, puberty and menopause being prime examples. Some transitions we plan for--obtaining a doctorate--and others can catch us by surprise, such as divorce. Transitioning in sync with your cohort is a vastly different experience than a solo transition.

All are fascinating to me.

As my regular readers are aware, my family is in the middle of a transition. Boy leaves for college in less than a month and is actively trying on new identities before he goes. Once he is there he'll be with a large group of people who are all making the same transition together. For me and b, our role as parents will definitely undergo a transition. While we have friends and family members who have already faced this particular transition, there is no one in our lives who will be going through it with us.

Transitions affect the people around you and can cause a ripple effect. Although the three of us will have very different perspectives on this transition--which we will experience as individuals--we will end up transformed as a family.

Transitions affect other areas of your life. How I work now, as a mother of a semi-independent son, is vastly different than how I worked as a mother of a young child. I suspect more changes will occur in how I work (and possibly what I work on) once the nest is actually empty.

My research agenda has already gone through a tremendous transition in the past several years. My previous work was with large-scale behavioral experiments in real world settings. All my data were numerical. I proved things. Now, although I'm still in real world settings, I work on a much smaller scale. Experimentation is an element of my work but not the prime focus. My data is mostly textual but occasionally sprinkled with numbers. Now I strive to understand things.

I suppose what fascinates me most of all is that in spite of the numerous, complex, and often overlapping transitions we make throughout our lifetime, there is so much consistency in who we are. The more I change the more I become the person I was. Perhaps it is our passions that keep us grounded. I may transition in and out of roles, experiences and identities but my passion for my family, for my research, for living both a physical life and a life of the mind, centers me in the here and now.


Julie said...

I think one of the many reasons we like your blog is because it's universal. We can relate. I'm going through a transition right now that might mean a move to another state...I won't bore your readers with the details...but this post really hit home.

The idea of the unknown is scary, but it's also exciting. I guess the old saying holds true that every exit is an entrance.

We'll keep you in our thoughts when boy leaves! You have a great relationship with him and an active life, so I'm sure you will transition just fine.

That transition from the parent/child relationship to the parent/adult is actually wonderful. I wouldn't trade the years when my daughter was a little girl for anything, but if I kept her in a box as a five-year-old, I would miss out on the awesome adult she is now. From reading your blog, it sounds like you're handling the transition in just the right way for boy and for you.

Thanks once again for a great read.

Dr. Bad Ass said...

I particularly like your comment about the ripple effect caused by transitions. Certainly, I'm feeling that now as we transition into activities that are safer for Slogger to participate in (ie., car camping instead of backpacking; kayaking instead of scuba diving). The ripple effect -- that's a lovely notion. Elegant.

Deb said...

i am in transition as we speak. you remember on friday i mentioned that i was gonna reach out to chris? well when i got home this evening i had (a zillion emails) an email from chris. odd coincidence, dont you think? its interesting that as i was going to reach out to him, he was apparently thinking the same thing.
i intend to give him a call this week and see what we can do.
thanks for always listening to my whining with a sympathetic ear.

JaneB said...

Nice post! I like the idea of transitioning from proving to understanding, it's an interesting way to think about how we look at the world.

alicepawley said...

Thanks for your post. I particularly like the bit about how through transitions we become more of who we are. Like the transition event helps us shed a little skin, we may grow a different one over it, but for a time, our core is more visible or recognizable. Thanks.