Last week I shared a short message about the importance of recognizing the challenges and joys of transitions in life. And whenever I become more aware of anything, I can’t help but see things through that clearer lens.
I posted that blog while on a spring break trip to Jamaica with our two boys. Travel is full of times of transition, and just like moving from sport to sport in triathlon, moments of travel can be really smooth… or quite “bumpy.”
We had some typical and literal bumps in our travel experience before arriving in Jamaica— air turbulence, delays, and temporarily lost luggage. We are grateful to be able to travel and so we didn’t let these minor frustrations discourage us too much. After retrieving our late luggage we excitedly boarded a bus transfer with other excited tourists.
Although we were ignorant to the distance between the airport and our resort, we overheard someone saying that Negril was 80 kilometers away. So, when the driver told us it could be a 1.5-2 hour drive we had a collective sigh of frustration, due to our excitement to actually arrive at our destination (and also influenced by a bit of “hangry-ness” starting to creep in). We acknowledged the hunger pangs along with the short term disappointment that we would arrive even later than anticipated, and then settled back into our attitudes of gratitude.
The driver had notified us that we would experience traffic in Montego Bay on our way to Negril, so when the bus came to a halt no one was surprised. We slowly creeped along… but after going roughly a half a mile in an hour everyone on the bus started to get a bit antsy. Our driver then notified us that there was an accident way up ahead, on the one road that our “big bus” (what our driver liked to call it) could take to drop all of the passengers at our prospective resorts.
Transitions do not always go as planned.
At about the same moment, drivers of cars, smaller transfer vans, and various other vehicles started to become impatient. In Jamaica they drive on the left side of the road. Drivers started aggressively passing on the dirt shoulder on the left. And then on the dirt shoulder all of the way on the right. And then they took to driving fast down the middle of the road… eventually passing in all of the above ways.
This was scary to watch as our “big bus” sat idle on the road with all of the other buses full of tourists. There were many audible gasps of collective worry as drivers repeatedly came within inches of head on collisions. You could also feel the frustration of the passengers mounting as the time ticked by, and it became clear that there was a good chance we would not arrive at our respective destinations for many more hours than initially thought.
Transitions are not always in our control.
The 20 people on the bus were traveling from somewhere in the United States. And in case you didn’t know this about our culture in America, we do not do well with being out of control. Some people got angry, yelling at the driver about how he needed to drive more aggressively (and risk losing his job and the lives of a bunch of tourists). Others made jokes, some to lighten the mood and others snarky and sarcastic. Most either slept or used their phones for a distraction. One man regularly used a “dap pen” of THC while also taking pulls from his duty free bottle of tequila. (The contact buzz possibly helped us all stay calmer?)
The four of us hadn’t purchased an international phone plan and so our options included looking out the window quietly, or watching the people on the bus.
I decided to pay close attention to my own thoughts and feelings and became acutely aware of how quickly my brain would vacillate between extreme emotions. I felt full of calm gratitude for my own safety and ability to travel. I prayed for the victims of the accident and gained perspective for my short term uncomfortable situation. And then suddenly I could be overtaken by the over-imaginative wonder if we would ever actually get there, or if we would end up running out of gas, being forced to walk down the extremely unsafe road with our luggage.
Transitions can be full of emotions.
Eventually the accident was cleaned up and police cars escorted the traffic coming from the other direction in order to clear up the parking lot clog of cars created by the impatient drivers. We started moving again and the passengers of the “big bus” cheered and hugged. As an empathic person I could feel the collective mood on the bus lighten.
You must go through transitions often if you want to live life to the fullest.
After a long day of travel and five hours on the bus, we arrived at our resort and had an amazing week in the sunshine. Sadly, we did find out later that three people died in that tragic accident, and that further put the blessings of the week in perspective for our family.
For the passengers of the “big bus,” the situation became nothing more than a crazy story. And I gained a few more lessons on the fullness of life and the complexity of transitions.
Good or bad; fun or miserable; exciting or boring; joyful or absolutely disappointing— transitions mean you are moving through life. And that is always better than sitting idle for too long. And in no particular order: breathe, stay present, acknowledge and experience your thoughts and feelings; find perspective and gratitude when possible; and keep enjoying the ride.