I have a friend who just quit her job. She doesn’t have another lined up. She was unhappy, not unlike the 4 million Americans who quit their jobs in the month of April 2021, the highest number since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began publishing this data.
What she thought would be a dream job—working for one of the best art museums in the country—turned out to be an organization deficient in good leadership. She tried for years to stick it out, to offer solutions, to reframe her expectations, and to help change the culture. Over time, the stress and extra work led to apathy, anger, and despair. The pandemic underscored the organization’s dysfunction: what was weak became weaker.
She quit last Friday. She’s saved enough money to see her through the transition, and she trusts that she’ll find work that’s healthier and more rewarding.
Now she finds herself, like many of us, in liminal space. It takes courage to step knowingly into uncertainty, into the in-between. She decided to trust herself, heed her unhappiness, and walk away.
In the in-between, the urge to move out of uncertainty can overtake good intentions to listen deeply for the next right action. We feel the scarcity of time and resources. When fearful, we grasp at remedies. But if we make time for stillness, our awareness can expand to discover egress that may otherwise be hidden.
Dr. Gabor Maté, psychiatrist and author, says that humans have a need for both attachment and authenticity. To occupy liminal space means to stand between these. We walk away from a career (relationship/way of life) that offers unhealthy attachment to find a career (relationship/way of life) that allows more authenticity.
As children, Dr. Maté says that often we “sacrifice authenticity for attachment.” This is due to an “adaptive survival response,” which means we will be and do what we must as children to survive. As adults, we may feel a similar need to fit in to familial expectations, but also those of our culture.
And this is where courage comes in, because as adults, we have the freedom to choose authenticity. First comes awareness of an unhealthy attachment. Then comes a choice and movement. When you choose to be true to yourself, the passageway can feel incredibly lonely. But if you pay attention to this intrinsic knowing, a more authentic way will present itself.
Lisa is a writer and creator of the course Figuring Out What’s Next. If you find yourself in the middle of a transition, and not sure what to do next, this course was written for you.