We go through transitions in our lives when we move from one chapter of life to another. Some are happy, some are sad, some are good, some are bad.

A transition word, in the context of English language, is a word or phrase that shows the relationship between paragraphs or sections of a text or speech. Transitions provide greater cohesion by making it more explicit or signaling how ideas relate to one another. Transitions are bridges that carry a reader from section to section.

Similarly, I’m defining transition as a signal of change in routine, a departure from an established norm that segues into a new norm in the process of being established – a “new normal” we could call it.

In this post, my intention is to capture the essence of a few defining life transitions as I’ve lived them so far in my 30ish years on earth, hopefully with a fresh perspective. I hope to experience other transitions – such as committing to a partner, raising children, and selling a business, to name a few – in my future should I be so fortunate. For now, as I’ve seen them, the following transitions have been the most defining for me, so far.

Losing a parent

Losing my dad has been the hardest transition of my life, I can say, without hesitation. Reinventing a routine that included talking to him – either in person or on the phone – for pretty much every day of my life has been, in a word, challenging. I would talk to him on my way home from work when I lived in Boston, which typically occurred on a walk down Beacon St. at 2 p.m. Pacific Time. I would talk to him when I was in college, at UCLA, mostly in the evenings around dinner time. I would talk to him when I moved home two years ago, regularly, sharing our thoughts and ideas, our hearts and our minds. Saying good morning, saying good night. I’m still navigating this one; today I have a whole new outlook on mortality and what it means as a result of this transition, to my life without Abdul.

The carrot cake, commissioned by French’s Cupcake Bakery in Costa Mesa, CA, to honor our dad.

Moving out (and living alone)

Moving out of a family home screams independence, including new responsibilities like buying household products such as dishwashing soap and trash bags on the regular without the luxury of another responsible party. Keeping houseplants alive, should you choose to have houseplants. Binge watching your TV series of choice steals an exorbitant amount of time. On the upside, you can decorate how you want, and be as messy as you want. You also get to walk around naked – the best perk, in my opinion. There are also moments of loneliness, which can be mitigated by FaceTime calls with friends and family, or dates with yourself.

My first studio apartment, in Boston, MA.

Moving out (and living with roommates)

Shares some similarities with living alone, living with roommates is similar to living alone, except for the fact that you’re not actually living alone. Add in a dimension of sharing (living space and the milk in the fridge), respecting others and their ideas, and demonstrating courtesy – and you’ve pretty much got a good picture of what it looks like. Walking around naked us subject to your roommates’ (written or unwritten) code of conduct.

Sara reaches for water, sitting next to roommate Janika, following shopping for paper towels.

Driving

Assuming a heightened degree of independence that came with driving at sixteen was a big one for me. I got to drive my siblings around, to school and elsewhere. I got to go off-campus for lunch as a junior and senior in high school. I drove myself to SAT prep class and to ballet lessons on Tuesdays. I also spent a lot more money on food than I ever had previously in my life. (I wasn’t really cognizant of it then because I was lucky enough to have an allowance, but looking back it’s oh so apparent.)

A satisfactory parking job.

Drinking (or regularly being around) alcohol

Notice this doesn’t reference turning 21, or being of legal drinking age. My first encounters with alcohol were at frat parties when I was 18, during my freshman year of college at UCLA. For some their exposure to alcohol was during high school. I was a bit of a late bloomer in that regard; the only time I went to a party where alcohol had a seat at the table was during the afterparty of my senior prom. The first time I got drunk I was probably 19, drinking with a small group of friends and this boy I liked. We drank vodka, Smirnoff I think. I don’t like vodka. I’m more of a wine, whiskey or gin girl myself. Amidst this transition, I also spent a lot more money, on beverages this time, than I ever had previously in my life. Independence and adult choices are expensive.

I call this photo “Sara observes Beer Pong.”

In general, transitions mark the dawning of newfound dimensions of independence, personal reflection, or (ironically) increased expenses. (The economics of life’s transition is the topic of another post coming soon.) As we navigate life’s transition, we should be mindful of their lessons and the new opportunities they bring us – happy, sad, good, or bad.

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