Swings, roundabouts and lifequakes - embracing the freedom of transitions

In September 2023 I was at the pointy end of my marathon training. My fabulous friend Jaq O’Donohoe had written me a program that would get my fifty year old butt over the finish line at the Melbourne Marathon. This was my first long training plan since completing two half marathons the two years prior, and both of those training plans I completed with my older cherub, where we basically chatted for hours upon hours as we ran. Running for long periods of time on my own was a whole new kettle of fish. Music for me is motivating, but I missed that sense of connection that comes from conversing. Storytelling, am I right? And so I started mixing my training runs with music, audio books and podcasts. I’m particular about podcasts while on a long run. One is New Yorker Fiction and another is Pulling the Thread. Both are meaty, borderline intellectual and get all my strengths humming. I was listening to Pulling the Thread in the middle of a three and a half hour run and I was so caught up in how I was reacting to what I was listening to that I lost complete track of time and ran harder and faster than ever before. The topic? Lifequakes. 

Life is in the Transitions by Bruce Feiler is the culmination of hundreds of interviews about how people approached life transitions. He uses the term lifequakes which he defines as massive change that leads to a life transition. Here’s me paraphrasing like a mofo:

When there’s a gaggle of life disrupters and disturbances, good, bad and excruciating, all raining down on you at once, that’s a lifequake. It could be becoming a parent, losing a job, ending a relationship, finishing school, starting university, losing a loved one, a milestone birthday, a freaking pandemic. When more than one of these things happen at once, that’s a lifequake. When this happens, it can feel like all the different facets of life are suddenly unstable. Sometimes, we choose these, sometimes they’re thrust upon us, and sometimes it’s a combination of the two. There’s loss, and there can also be excitement, but with any uncertainty there’s shock and an element of fear. 

But, but, but – on the other side of a lifequake is a blank page. Think about it – when it feels like things have burnt to the ground, you can feel more empowered to take a risk, try something new and take advantage of the opportunity to go in a new direction. 

The Blue51 cherubs have both had conversations at school about subject selections. Both have had the subsequent knickers-in-a-knot feelings about what to choose? I’ve said to them to the extent of killmenow that they don’t need to know what they want to do for their entire life. They just need to decide what to do first. Gone are the days of linear life plans, thank goodness! This goes back to Feiler – his research shows that the average length of the transitions that are the aftershocks of lifequakes are five years, which means we spend half of our adult lives in uncertainty. Jeez, yet yay! 

On the flipside of a lifequake is the chance to reimagine and rebuild our lives, shed beliefs and habits and build new ones. How exciting is that? Of course, all this talk about lifequakes had me thinking about my own:

Holly at eighteen years: I was finishing school, leaving home and moving to the city, starting university. The night before uni selections were due I swapped the Arts degree that I’d dreamed of for my entire school life for a nursing degree, promising myself that I’d make some money, get some life experience and then go back and find a way to make writing part of my professional life. 

Holly at twenty four years: I bought a house and was a slave to mortgage repayments, working in my plan B career which I didn’t love, not in the slightest. I remembered my promise to myself and went back to uni to do a Masters in Communications, knowing that would give me highly employable skills and expertise. 

Holly at thirty years: After six or so years working in comms on some phenomenal projects, I launched my business, which was a blend of outsourced communications and professional writing. On the day I graduated with my MA Comms I enrolled in another Masters, this time in Writing and Literature and this honestly felt like coming home. 

Holly at forty years: I was a mum of two, one at school, the other starting kindergarten. I rebranded my business as Blue51 Communications, wanting more life by design than I’d been able to achieve working as a comms director for organisations. 

Holly at fifty years: Here we are! A life changing trip with my mama to France, Blue51 kicked over a decade, one cherub is in Year 12, the other Year 9 and my novel won a national prize. Hello, new lifequake!

The one constant through all of those lifequakes, the one constant for my whole entire life, really, is creative writing. Creating imaginary spaces, sticking imaginary people in them and throwing all sorts of obstacles in their way. Immersing myself in the joy of word wrangling and metaphor chasing. It’s a feeling that’s almost impossible to describe, but one that I want more, more MORE of. Just like Veruca Salt, I want to write, NOW!

So what does this mean for Blue51? Well, I’m reimagining and rebuilding! I’m clearing space, and I’m retiring some of the ways I work with people. I’ll never change my focus on words, writing, storytelling and its impacts on an individual and on a brand, but I’m changing how I do that. First service that I’m farewelling? My Write Here Right Now batch writing workshops. This isn’t easy: I’ve absolutely loved holding space for people to write. For four years, every two months or so, I’ve repeatedly whispered ‘five more minutes’ to keep writers on track with their goals for the day. The writing that’s fallen out of these workshops has been nothing short of career-changing and brand-defining, and I’m so proud of what people achieve each workshop. I will always love you-oo-oo, and all that, but it’s time to say goodbye to them. Ugh, go away, tears!

Anyhoo, more shall be revealed and retired and reimagined over the coming months, but let’s just say this is a lifequake that I’m facing with optimism, excitement and a tiny bit of buttclenching. All the good stuff!

Tell me, what do you think about this concept of lifequakes?


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