Light in the Situation
Throughout life, we will tackle various situations from the mundane to the devastating. To write this week I reviewed multiple websites reporting out their top five, top ten, top fifteen difficult situations. To name a few we will find ourselves dealing with difficult people at work, lack of social support, failure, break up, loss of job, lack of connection, illness, moving to a new place and the death of a family member.
We continue through our day-to-day routine while walking through a situation. A situation that could last for days or one that could last for years.
What I am going through is not my identity; it is my current situation.
How is it possible not to make a situation define who we are? And how do we grow from the situation? How do we find a place of fulfillment? How do we focus on coping within our own situation? And how do we not judge the situation of others?
Earlier this week, traveling to drop Caelan off at his school I asked him to tell me about a difficult situation he recently experienced. Caelan shared, “one of my friends picked up my Lego figure I built and threw it to break it.” Caelan continued saying, “but my friend asked me do you mind if I throw your Legos. Mom I didn’t understand the phrase do you mind, I said I don’t mind thinking that it meant don’t throw it.”
I asked Caelan, “What types of difficult situations do you think adults deal with?” He responded, “I think I will have a better idea in eight years when I am an adult.” I laughed with him and said, “I’ll ask you again when your 18.”
Throughout life we will have misunderstandings. We will face difficulties. We will have to figure out how to cope.
Since he discussed being 18, I thought all right this brings some light in the situation for what I will write about for Friday. I started reflecting on a transition theory I recently shared with a graduate student last week, I thought about my own college experience, and difficulties I faced.
As we transition through various life stages we face a multitude of situations. In A Model for Analyzing Human Adaptation to Transition, Schlossberg (1981) defines transition as opportunities for growth noting a positive outcome may not follow. The perception of our situation might include assets, liabilities, or a combination of both.
Let’s flashback to fall 1998…
I transferred to Elon College (now Elon University) at the age of 20. Before, I attended Radford University for a year and then graduated with my Associates Degree from Germanna Community College (GCC) in spring 1998. During my time at GCC I worked for Spotsylvania Parks and Recreation as a sport facility attendant for youth sports and supervised pool admissions and camps in the summers as an intern.
My first year at Elon included happiness, sadness, and finding community within my major, the university and the community.
I arrived at Elon, excited to be a student in the Leisure Sport Management program (now sport management). I lived in Jordan Center (at the time it was temporary housing that was built in the 70s, it no longer exists – now it is Oaks Residence Hall). My roommate, also a transfer student rarely was around, her boyfriend and friends were in Greensboro. My suitemates were amazing, Melissa and Melissa. We called ourselves, the Caramels. Within the first month, I applied and got a job with Campus Recreation, who knew it would lead to me being in the field of campus recreation for almost twenty years thus far.
I started a new school, a new job, made new friends, and...let go of an intimate relationship.
Along with all the newness, my boyfriend whom we will name boyfriend let go (BLG), from back home also transferred. He attended a different university about an hour away. We both attended GCC together and the transition of us being at different schools became a difficult situation.
As students at a university, there are many opportunities to join clubs and be involved in multiple facets of university life. At Elon, I was finding my place, enjoying my classes and professors, making new friends and thriving with all the opportunities.
This did not go over well with BLG (remember boyfriend let go). We visited each other sporadically at each other’s school but when we were apart, BLG would call me and ask where had I been and why was I not in my room (thank goodness cellphones were not relevant, I can only imagine what the text messages would be like).
We continued to have problems and broke up that fall semester, right before my 21st birthday. We ran into one another back home over Christmas and began talking again but not officially dating as boyfriend/girlfriend.
Early spring semester, BLG came to visit me at Elon. One of my friends in the sport management program invited my suitemates and me to a party. Once BLG arrived at my residence, he began drinking. I informed him that I wasn’t going to drink yet, I might have a couple drinks at the party and I could drive us there. We could always leave the car and walk back if we needed too. As we prepared to leave to go to the party, I told BLG to bring any drinks he had left over to the party. He said he had finished everything (approximately 6 to 7 beers in about 1 to 1.5 hours). I have to admit, I became nervous about taking him over to the party since he already had drank so much and because these were new friends I was making.
We headed to the party and my suitemates came along with us. As we parked in the parking lot of the townhouse complex and were getting out of the car, BLG pulled me close and said you better introduce me as your boyfriend (even though we were not officially dating, I was scared of how he would respond, so I did).
The craziness started about thirty minutes into the party; he began hanging all over me. I just didn’t want to do that at the party. He got really upset and went into the other room to be away from me.
I started questioning coming to the party and I went over to ask him if he wanted us to leave. BLG ignored me. I left and proceeded to the keg to get my first beer. As I am in the kitchen of the townhouse I hear peers begin yelling get Cara, get Cara. I ran in the other room and everyone said your boyfriend left.
I didn’t go after him, I didn’t know what to do. I was embarrassed.
About a half hour passed and a couple of my friends and I were standing outside. All of a sudden, a car comes speeding through the townhouse complex parking lot going way to fast.
Ugh…BLG is driving the car. He turned the car around and proceeded closer to the townhouse, I walked out to the car…he began yelling at me. I tried to explain that I didn’t know what to do, tried to calm him down, and to get him to stay and hangout. BLG continued to yell at me, saying, “Get in the f****** car now, get in the f****** car now (I didn’t) he said fine and peeled out.
About 15 minutes goes by, BLG speeds in again and leaves.
A third time BLG speeds in again and parks a few townhouses down. I start to walk to the car and with many friends, saying Cara don’t go to the car.
I continued to walk to the car and made BLG take the keys out of the ignition before I sat in the car. He got irritated, removed the keys and threw them. BLG proceeded to yell at me saying things like you are a f****** w**** because you rather be here with all of these guys (there were plenty of women at the party too).
If you want to be a w**** stay here then. I did my best to calm him down. He wanted me to leave with him but I told him no because of the amount of alcohol he consumed. I told him I would sit with him. He said, get out of the f***** car. I pleaded with him to get him to stay and not drive.
He repeated three times, “You better get out of this car or I’m going to f***** hurt you.” Well, third times a charm…in slow motion (it seemed) he pulled back his hand and slammed it into the side of my head. I felt my ear heat up and my eyes enlarged because of the shock of what had just happened (it was the first time he had ever hit me).
I stared at him and stepped out of the car. As he peeled away, I walked myself to the curb, sat down, and began to cry. My friends ran over to check on me, I said, “he hit me.” My friends stayed with me until 4am and checked the residence hall parking lot to see if he had left before we made the trek back home. The next morning (around 11am). I see BLG pull up in the residence hall parking lot.
My suitemates and I opened the bathroom doors connecting our suite and our front doors. BLG made it to my door. He began to apologize and I asked if he remembered anything from the night before, he said he could not remember. I informed him of what happened and told him that the best thing for him and me was for us not to be together. I told him I hoped he would find the help that he needed.
He left, what do I do now?
I surrounded myself with networks of friends at Elon, my suitemates, my campus recreation family, and a faculty member I had that spring semester. The faculty member probably does not remember the situation.
At the time my professor taught substance abuse and human behavior class (how ironic). The next class we would be discussing behaviors related to alcohol consumption. I visited the professor before class and stated I did not want to come to class. As I began to tell her why, I teared up, and shared the story from the weekend. She supported me not coming because I feared getting overly upset in class. The professor discussed with me support options on campus such as counseling and strategies for dealing with the stress associated with the situation.
In Counseling Adults in Transition, Goodman (2006) provides four factors for how we cope with our transition.
My friends, peers, and professor who I shared my experience with did not judge my situation; they provided support and strategies for me to cope. I learned to focus on my personal growth. I found fulfillment in working for campus recreation, serving as president of my major’s club, attending social events with friends, and a passion for serving the community during my time as a student at Elon.
This is only one example of a life stage situation. I share with you my story of transition at the age of 20/21 years old as a transfer student. First because teaching now at the university and seeing my students graduate, I find myself reflecting on my own college experiences. Second, to remind us that throughout life we will face a variety of situations.
It is important as we walk along one another and interact with one another to understand each of us are dealing with new transitions, are facing situations and most importantly doing our best to cope.
To see light in the situation:
“We all have a choice to let a bad situation make us or break us. Stay strong. You CAN make it.”
- Nicole Rogers