Leaving the Familiar

Transitions are inevitable in life, but February was quite full of them for our family. Wesley and I traveled abroad for a brief trip and left Baker in care of my very capable parents. Although, as first time parents, this was still anxiety inducing even with plenty of preparations and planning. We returned from our trip (which went just fine!) and immediately faced another transition – starting Baker in daycare. He attended one week part-time, then spent the next week home sick (obviously not planned), and is back now for his first full-time week. Even though we’re three weeks in, it feels like we started back at square one after the inevitable sickness disruption. 

No matter how much preparation is involved, any transition has an emotional component that cannot fully be prepared for until you are in that moment. This is particularly evident for a toddler, who lacks the emotional ability to understand why routines are different and places are less familiar. This leads to emotional swings, disrupted sleep, changes in diet, etc., and we’ve experienced all of the above the past 3 weeks. 

Even if the transition is desired and expected, there is often a physical and mental toll when you leave behind the familiar for something new. It’s relatively easy to have compassion for a young child with emotional swings but we often lack compassion for ourselves as adults when we are in periods of transition.  

There are well recognized transitory periods and life phases we go through and because everyone experiences them, we can be prone to assume the path will be light and easy. Education leads to new jobs and career growth. Your family may grow and change as your career grows. You change cities and houses. You start accumulating wealth and planning for the future. Eventually the wealth accumulation during those early phases allows you to consider an eventual stop or change in vocation. You may experience some “pre-retirement” years before “full retirement.” 

And yet. Along the way there are other transitions that you cannot prepare for as well. You lose loved ones unexpectedly. There are disappointments or setbacks in your career and/or family life. Even transitions that you plan for and expect can cause fear of the unknown to manifest into a dominating emotion. The things you were once familiar with are gone or different and the best laid plans go awry. Changing jobs is more difficult than expected and you find yourself without as much purpose in your days. 

As financial planners, we have the privilege of standing beside clients throughout many of the transitions in life – planned and unplanned. Some practices that can help when you find yourself standing on wobbly feet include: 

Acknowledging and naming your situation. Remember that a transition is not the end. It’s a temporary disruption on your path from Point A to B. Naming the emotions that pop up help reduce their power over you. 

Remaining grounded emotionally and physically. Stay focused on making methodical, smart decisions one after another. You do not have to make every decision at once. Continue taking one step forward, while tuning out the noise in the background. There are physical grounding practices that can help calm your body, as well. 

Staying connected to others. Share your experience with others- a trusted friend, advisor, or family member. Someone who can help you name the situation, remain grounded, and help hold you accountable as needed. Fear of the unknown compounds when we are isolated from one another. 

Then of course there are other practical financial planning moves to make, which we spend ample time discussing in our Briefs. We work with clients to name financial goals and determine wise strategies to help you reach those goals by making one smart decision after the other. Prepare well when possible and give yourself grace during the unexpected, when you find yourself out of sorts. We are here as resources and partners to help you sort out the uncertainties, tune out distracting noises, and continue moving forward one step at a time. In time, you find your new familiar.

Ellen Martin
[email protected]

After graduating from UVA (go Hoos!), I moved to Raleigh for the Raleigh Fellows program where I fell in love with the city, its people, and a fellow Fellow who is now my husband, Wesley. I worked for another wealth management firm in Raleigh for seven years before joining the Beacon team in June of 2021. When not at work, you can most likely find Wesley and me walking our dog, Ollie, on the lovely Raleigh Greenways, or enjoying a cup of coffee and a La Farm white chocolate baguette.