I love traveling. Like, a lot. I love people watching at airports. I love simply being at airports. I love the feeling you get when you walk down that weird tunnel between your gate and plane (yes, I’m sure there’s a more technical term for it, but I will always call it ‘that weird tunnel’). I love walking out of a new weird tunnel into a new airport. I especially love the small airports where you get to walk off the plane directly onto the tarmac, descending the stairs like a star from the 1950s.
I love how much traveling always seems to teach you about life. There’s the obvious – the new culture, new history, new customs. You see a different group of people and a different way of life. Languages, food, fashion – everything is a little more intriguing and glamorous when it’s unknown.
I love how traveling shows you how big the world truly is …and how small you truly are. I love how traveling reminds me how global our God is. I love how traveling reveals that everything you think is normal is actually no where near normal. And there is, in fact, no normal. There’s a million different ways to do any one thing, and somehow the world has been functioning without doing it my specific way. Weird.
On the other hand, I love seeing the things that are truly universal. Over-charging tourists. Respect for the elderly and young mothers on public transportation. People who don’t speak the same language simply speak louder and slower to get their point across. Laughter. And my personal favorite? The second your plane stops moving – no matter where you are in the world – everyone ignores the still lit seat belt light, rushes to get their bags down and shove towards the front of the plane. Where the door is still locked. We’re all in a hurry to get nowhere…
You know what I don’t love? Jet lag. I don’t think I’m alone here, as I’m pretty sure the majority of people don’t enjoy a weird sleep schedule in addition to a weird eating schedule in addition to simply feeling all around weird. I recently got back from 2 weeks in South East Asia (yes, I know how extremely cool my life is. I’m forever thankful), and have been experiencing the worst jet lag ever. EVER.
It might have something to do with having to re-adjust to being 15 hours off. It might have something to do with the fact that I never really adjusted to that time zone, so getting thrown back into this time zone has left my body very confused and my immune system on strike. It might have to do with my working in an office of 1, so my Monday-after-vacation was hell with a side of too many emails. It might have to do with a lot of things, but the bottom line is this: it sucks.
Laying in bed at 1:30am – fully awake yet extremely exhausted – I wasn’t in the best mood. Too tired to do any of the million things I needed to accomplish and yet too awake to sleep? Cruel joke, body. Cruel. And then, out of no where, I was reminded of this article I read recently on change versus transition. Change is external, obvious, instant; transition is internal, messy, and fluid. We know when a change has happened, yet we don’t always know when a transition is fully over – or, when we’re in the midst of one, when it will come to an end. It was something I never gave much thought to before.
New jobs, new places to live, new relationships, or newly ended relationships – those are all changes. You got married. You got a puppy. You got laid off. The change is pretty instant. The transition? Not so much. Transitions take time, they take a lot of work, and sometimes – most of the time – they suck.
Because even though the change may have happened, you’re still stuck in the middle. You’re stuck in the adjustment. You’re used to one thing, but now you’re in this other thing. You don’t know how to feel, what to do, or how to be.
I realized my struggle with jet lag was the same way I struggle with most transitions in my life – “When is this going to end??” “I don’t like this very much” “When do I get to feel normal again?!” Adjusting to anything – even good things! – takes time. It’s messy. It’s scary. It’s unknown.
We can’t go through sudden changes in life and assume that we’ll transition just as quickly. The pain of the break up doesn’t end as instantly as that final, deciding conversation did. The adjustment to marriage isn’t as fast as the vows were (…not like I’m speaking from personal experience here, but as all my friends got married recently, I can say this confidently). The stress of the new job doesn’t disappear when the first paycheck arrives. Life is full of seasons, and seasons are full of transitions. And jet lag has taught me a few things about surviving the transitions…
Know what you need & communicate what you need
In the midst of transitions, you have to know what you need. That might be a struggle in itself. Do you need time alone? Or do you need friends to show up on your doorstep? Would tackling that giant to-do list make you feel successful or make you even more crazy? Being self aware of needs, wants and triggers is key. Communicating those with people in your life is also key. They aren’t mind readers, ya know.
Being honest with myself of “Hey, you can’t make plans tomorrow night, because you’re going to be asleep at 7pm…” is important. Telling my friends “I reallllllly want to see you, but maybe next week when I’m feeling more human?” is even more important.
Be okay with where you’re at
Everyone handles transitions differently because everyone’s transitions are different. There’s a reason the definition for “transition” involves the word process. It’s going to take time, and just because you aren’t in the same place as so-and-so doesn’t mean you are in the wrong place. If you know what you need, you’re in a good place. Don’t bury yourself by comparing your process with another’s. Everyone says the trick to beating jet lag is staying awake as long as possible throughout the day – instead I gave in to a 4pm power nap. It was life changing (I swear!), and so very needed. That’s where I was at.
Remember there is an end – even if it’s not in sight
Monday morning I wanted to quit my job. I wanted to quit my life. I was simultaneously hungry and nauseous, awake and exhausted – and my brain felt like literal mush. Now it’s Wednesday – and although I’m still pretty nauseous and my head is fuzzy, I’ve finally slept through an entire night (!!!!). Baby steps, but it’s still forward. This, too, shall pass. I don’t know when exactly. But I know it will. Transitions are transitions, not destinations. Don’t get the two confused.
Jet lag is ruthless. Transitions are hard. Life is rough. But it goes on.