In recent weeks I've found myself bumping into this question more frequently. I've walked with families who are working through pain, I've seen many grade 12 students wondering what might be on the horizon a few months from now, and I've even had conversations with folks about different life transitions they are looking at (moving, changing jobs, health issues, etc.). The one common denominator in all of these interactions has been the prevailing, and somewhat deafening, ask of "what now?"
This question seems to stem from a form of identity crisis. When a role that we have played begins to shift (like graduation from an achievement of sorts), we seemingly loose sight of a piece of our identity. We are no longer what we used to be, and we are uncertain of who we are in the immediate and now not as distant future.
I wonder if the tension we experience is a result of allowing our identity to be shaped more by the roles we've been accustomed to playing rather than the values or the principles from which we may have stated are the foundation of our lives.
Consider this: If a parent who has had their children living with them in their home for 20+ years is now suddenly dealing with the emerging reality of becoming an empty-nester (a welcome thought for some), does their role a parent come to an end? Perhaps not, but it does indeed shift.
If roles in life change, and if experiences sometimes facilitate this change, how might one respond to the reality of the 'what now' in their life? Here are three simple suggestions.
1. Breathe. This may seem like a no brainer, but this is absolutely critical. Without oxygen we will die. There are times when the pain we are experiencing in our moment of crisis we are impeded in our attempts to not only breathe physically, but to find space to process the emotional, spiritual and physical realities that transition brings. Create space where you can process this transition and don't forget to catch your breath.
2. Seek wise counsel. Get input from people who have gone through a season of asking the "what now" question before. Their experience might not mirror your own experience, but you may also be able to learn from someone who has walked the "what now" path before you. You're not expected to figure everything out on your own. Take some time to connect with people you trust, people who have your best intentions at heart and allow them to walk this emerging journey with you.
3. Take your time. Don't be hard on yourself. It takes time to work through a "what now" season. In our intensely saturated instantaneous culture we succumb to the pressure and demands of results based value as a society. It takes time to work through different seasons in life. The "what now" season is no different. You cannot expect an instantaneous response to a soul-stirring question. Be kind to yourself and others who are walking through this kind of season. You don't simply get over a "what now" season, you get through it...and that takes time.