Thursday, June 21, 2012


by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
It’s been happening a lot lately.  Life transitions are being thrust before me, and I’ve heard that it gets worse as you get older.  There have been a number of deaths, some people have entered “care facilities,” and there has been a wedding (one of my two sons, and the last of my four children, got married).
More than five years ago now, I read Gail Sheehy’s Passages (Ballantine Books, 2006), and I have been dramatically affected by it ever since.  I never wrote a review of it (I wasn’t writing book reviews at the time), but the first review I found by Bertz “Happier” from Hawaii, at captured my thoughts exactly.  This is just the very first part of the review: “Reading Passages by Gail Sheehy was a turning point in my life. I especially remember, ‘The most important words in midlife are —  Let Go. Let it happen to you. Let it happen to your partner. Let the feelings. Let the changes.’ ‘You can't take everything with you when you leave on the midlife journey.’ ‘You are moving out of roles and into the self.’”
It’s not that I have been bereft of significant transitions in my own life nor that I did not know how to deal with them.  It’s is simply — like many aspects of life — when they happen to you, you think you are the Lone Ranger.  That is, you think you are the only one experiencing them and life crises only happen to you.  Be quiet and move on with your life!  Sheehy’s book is an eye opener only because she serves as a guide, mentor, and significant confidant.
One major transition for me was from being single to being married.  When I left for Indiana University to study for my Ph.D., my future wife and I talked about the transition.  We decided that for the move we would either be married, or we would split up.  There was going to be no long-distance relationship.  This was an important transition and contributed significantly to my successful work on my Ph.D.  I had no choice except to want to do well, not just for myself, but now for a wife and a future family.  Time to get serious.  It was as if “life” was shouting: “Grow up now!”  
When I moved from Indiana University to the University of Massachusetts, from graduate teaching assistant to instructor then professor, it was a major transition.  From being a student to operating as a full-time college teacher can rattle your sensibilities.  For twenty years I had only known how to “be a student,” and suddenly, within a four-month time span, I was on the other side solely responsible for my own students.  Sure, being a graduate teaching assistant helped ease the transition, introduced me to college teaching, and set a valuable course of action; however, anyone can train, guide, and instruct, but they can’t get into your head and make the transition for you.
There was never a time during my professional life that I wasn’t writing.  I published at least five scholarly articles from my dissertation alone — a rather remarkable outcome, I was told.  Those successes led to many others (about 96 published articles), but none of my professional writing came close to the transition from unpublished book author to published book author.
I haven’t ever thought about why this was such a worthy transition for me until now.  I think there are a number of reasons for it.  First, I used between 50 and 100 textbooks (maybe more!) from the beginning of my formal (in class) educational career to when I completed my Ph.D.  This fact, alone, put textbook writers on an especially high pedestal.  That is because I always took my education seriously, read the books assigned, and performed well above average.
The second reason the transition from article writer to textbook author was significant was the praise I heard for textbook authors.  The books we used were often subjects of conversation, the theories espoused were regularly bases for argument, and once I achieved the status of “professor,” books and authors were often compared and discussed.  I enjoyed the thought of being the subject of such discussions.
When I interviewed for a position at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) (Spring, 1973), my first textbook (Speech/Communication (Van Nostrand, 1974), co-authored with Saundra Hybels) was just published, and I made it clear in the interview that I wanted to adopt the book for the basic speech course I was being asked to direct.  There wasn’t a sign of dissension among those interviewing me — and I specifically looked for it.  Actually, in retrospect, having a newly published textbook that satisfied exactly, the format of the course I was being asked to direct, increased my credibility among those faculty members.  Not one of them had ever published a textbook.
Because the course I directed was large, and this was my first of a number of textbooks I authored, you would have a difficult time imagining what a thrill it was to see students on campus carrying around my textbook.  I was a published, college-textbook author!  Quite a transition.  
As an aside here, it is that same textbook, with a different title, that is going into its 10th edition (Communicating Effectively, McGraw-Hill, 2012) — a continuous publishing record (counting Speech/Communication, 1974, as the starting point), with this one book, alone, of 38 years!
There have been other transitions, too.  Like from having no children to being a parent.  Then, the transition from being a parent of children to being a parent of teenagers!  And the transition I like least of all is from “adult” to “wise old man” — especially when the emphasis is on “old.”
What I have enjoyed, too (for the most part), is watching our grown children and their children go through life’s transitions.  This time, however, you watch with a different perspective since you have done it yourself, and since you are older and wiser now.  At least, older!
Life goes on.  Likewise, transitions go on, too.  What has been especially fun for me is that I have had the opportunity not just to observe all of this, but I have had the thrill of documenting and writing about it.  Probably the most important idea in the life transitioning that takes place is being flexible and adaptable, because often transitions cause change — if not physically, at least attitudinally.  They cannot be avoided; attitude shifts take place, and life goes on.  I think Gail Sheehy had it right.  Maybe the best thing we can do is just to Let Go!
- - - - - - - - -
At Faye Schindelka’s web site,, her essay, “Adopting a positive attitude towards life shifts our personal vibration,” is right on target. The following comment she makes is really the central idea of her essay: “By slowing down our pace and savoring each small part of our daily routine, we add a richness to our experience. Best of all, we experience more joy throughout the course of our day.”

At Ezine Articles, the essay, “Negotiating difficult life transitions,” by Garrett Coan, offers 14 different and easy-to-apply coping skills.  Coan ends his very worthwhile essay saying: “Times of life transitions offer you the chance to explore what your ideal life would look like. When things are in disarray, you can reflect on the hopes and dreams you once had but perhaps forgot about. Take this time to write about them in a journal or talk about them with a trusted friend or therapist. Now is a good time to take advantage of the fork in the road.”
- - - - - - - -
Copyright June, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Essays, SMOERs Words-of-Wisdom, Fridays Laugh, book reviews... And Then Some! Thank you for your comment.