Article 2- January 24

Processing Change and Navigating Transitions

by Kirstianna Guerrero, KYEA Program Assistant and KSYLF/Faces Alumna


When something changes, there is a process of moving forward. The time you spend moving from where you are to where you will be is the transition. Not only is it a process, but it can also be a lot to process (to mentally understand and work through).

Change is hard. It doesn’t just last for a moment, but impacts how you continue. I remind myself often, though, that, just because it’s hard, does not mean it is impossible. Every change, whether it seems big or small, leads to a transition. Some changes are instantly seen as good, like graduating high school or ending a habit you want to break. Some changes are unpredictable- they happen in our life outside of our control. While many changes can come from “bad” circumstances, I’ve come to recognize that no change is inherently bad because there is always another way of looking at it.  

But why am I talking about processing changes and navigating transitions? My “OG” (original) disability is epilepsy. Growing up with seizures meant that my daily plans could change in an instant. There were a lot of factors that led to changes big and small through the years. The one I’m highlighting today: in 2020, after months of worsening seizures and complications, I went into a coma. When I came out a week later my body didn’t move in the same way as before and there were new things I would discover and work through. These past 3 years have been full of changes and transitions. Through every difficult circumstance, there has been an equally beautiful experience or important lesson and I’m loving the journey. So, here’s the wisdom I have for you:

Change has rippling effects. Take time to identify everything that may change. Reflect on how it will affect your life and how it currently makes you feel. Look at everything as you reflect on the changes- it can be easy to overlook “smaller things.” It’s obvious that not being able to move my body the same way would change how I access the world, but it also changed the energy it took to do each task and the pain those tasks would cause. It was equally important to recognize that having nausea would change how I eat and enjoy food; how not remembering the last 3 months of my life could affect my conversations with friends and more. Transitions have many layers of change to navigate. So starting out with a birds-eye view of the situation helps me prepare myself to move forward. Fully understanding everything that is changing and processing through what overwhelms me frees me to live joyfully where I’d otherwise get stuck in confusion and frustration. Processing can look different- from journaling, to praying, talking with a friend or mentor, or seeing a therapist… discovering what helps you most is an important part of creating a successful transition. Many transitions also include loss. Some losses are “big,” like losing bodily function or losing a family member. Other losses appear “smaller” in comparison, like losing the opportunity to do something you love or losing a routine that brought you comfort. But every loss has an impact. This adds a layer in processing how the change will affect your life. 

When something changes in a way I don’t expect, my first instinct is to plan out every step and “control” the transition, but, in most cases, I don’t have that control. Let go of the responsibility for what’s out of your hands. While you may not be able to control what the transition looks like, you get to control how you respond and the steps you take along the way. So set goals and outline ideas for your words, your thoughts, your decisions, your reactions, your attitude, etc. I also encourage you to open your mind for the possibilities of change. Don’t get so stuck in your original ideas of what your life “should” look like that you miss out on the opportunity for a transition to lead to things you’ve never even dreamed of yet. The truth is- if I would’ve never gone into my coma, I don’t think I’d be working at KYEA now. 

With every single change that happens in your life, you get to make the decision: If you can’t continue the same way you had before, will you continue? If your answer is yes, you begin to see the areas where you need to do something differently to move forward. This was difficult for me because I loved to create a plan and have it go exactly as I wanted. But you can’t move forward by staying where you are. That sentence was a breakthrough in my brain, so I hope it will connect with you too.