Eighteen months ago, my husband got the job he had been preparing for throughout the previous two years. The news was exciting but also terrifying. It meant we had to give up the stability of home and nearby friends and family in exchange for moving to a new place every month.
As we began preparing for this major life change, I also began struggling with the uncertainty and stress of moving so often. I was sitting in our living room one night, surrounded by half-packed boxes, feeling sick of packing, when I realized that regularly packing and unpacking would be the one of the very few consistencies in our life for the next two years.
And suddenly, I was completely overwhelmed. I sat there, overcome with doubt, and tearfully told my husband, “I don’t think I can do this. How do I know I’m going to be able to handle this?”
If there’s one true thing about life it’s that it’s full of transitions and new challenges. Just when you think you’ve got life down pat, it changes on you.
You transfer to a new college. Your old friends move away, and you have to make new ones. You job changes. You go on a blind date. You move. You have to give a public speech for the first time. You have your first kid. Or third.
You’d think these daunting tasks would be hardest when you’re walking through them. But I’ve found that new challenges are just as hard in the days and weeks beforehand, when they’re looming large right in front of you. Doubts love to nibble at the edge of your mind when the decision is not yet permanent, and you still have time to back out. Or, worse, when you’ve made your decision and then can’t do anything but wait in restless anticipation for the moment to arrive.
Because, really — how do you know you’re going to be able to handle it?
No big change ever seems completely feasible until you’re doing it. And all the plans in the world don’t make that first step any less scary. You haven’t proven you can do it yet. You don’t have a tried and true roadmap.
It’s terrifying, because you truly don’t know. You don’t know if you’re going to thrive, or if you’re going to fall flat on your face and fail.