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Song and Story....a collection of short stories

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Breath of a Town

The Window Kisser
Letting Go
Out of Montana
Sweet Release (Review)
The Results

In Transition

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In Transition
By: Sara Strozk

Art By: Frank Stock
Art By: Frank Stock

I work in a map library, an irony not lost on me in my current situation. I don't lack direction, mind you. It just takes me a long time to figure out where I want to be, and I tend to take the road less traveled in order to get there.

    I took this job after returning from about four years of traveling overseas with my husband. We worked whatever non-career-type jobs we could find --pub work, apricot picking, a stint with a military hotel - in order to earn enough to continue our transient lifestyle. Eventually though, we realized we needed to choose: we could try to become citizens of Europe, or we could go home, and start a new phase of our lives - the "home/career/kids" phase. So now I'm working another non-career-type job, this time in order to support the stable lifestyle I'd started craving. But -- my map library job is the same job I had right after college, and we're living in an apartment about five blocks from the first place I lived in on my own. More than one of my friends has pointed out that I didn't need to travel around the world to accomplish this feat.

    While coming full circle like this may make a great plot device for a short story, in real life, it made the prospect of my 10th college reunion at the hippie-liberal, yet academically rigorous school I attended a little intimidating. I spent hours mentally rehearsing the spiel I'd use on my former classmates; polishing the humorous highlights, throwing in a few pearls of multicultural wisdom, and practicing self-deprecating remarks about my lack of career, in order to forestall any criticism from my conventionally successful peers. Sure enough, the first person I ran into on campus was Alex, who had always intimidated me with her cool competence.

    "So," said Alex, smiling over her plate of soggy picnic food. "What have you been up to for the last ten years?"

    I launched into my routine, covering my abortive stint in graduate school, my marriage and our decision to wander around and observe the world, tossed in a few funny stories and wound up breezily:

    "So, I'm working at the University libraries, but I'm looking into doing something a bit more professional. How about you?"

    Alex hesitated for a moment, looking uncomfortable, then said, "Well, it's kind of a long story. I guess you'd say I'm 'in transition.'"

    "Damn," I said. "I wish I'd thought of that one."

    Alex and I gravitated toward a crowd of fellow travelers who weren't founding software companies or starting soil conservation programs in Gambia. We all liked the trendy, millennial idea of being "in transition," and spent the rest of the evening explaining what we had been doing that made us want to define ourselves that way. What struck me, as we joked around and shared stories about where we were on our journeys, was how relieved we all were to have found this easy label. We were so uncomfortable with not being able to categorize ourselves in a couple of words! Perhaps it was because we'd all spent the day talking with folks who had decided upon simple definitions for where they were, or how they wanted to present themselves to others: successful "corporate executives," committed "activists," slightly defiant "stay-at-home moms." "In transition" pithily described the point we'd reached, not clueless or unmotivated, but caught in the uncertain process of moving from one phase to another.

    Some of our uneasiness stemmed from the knowledge that our culture is focused on the end product and instant gratification, uncomfortable with the in-between time we need to get from one place to another, let alone the idea that we may end up changing paths along the way. And while my friends and I were intelligent and enlightened enough to know that we shouldn't care what other people think, we're also honest enough to admit to ourselves that we do care. Saying that we're "in transition" lets us sound far more self-confident than saying "I'm in the middle of making a big leap from where I am to where I think I want to be, and there's no guarantee that I'll make it, or that I'll even like it when I get there."

    One of my friends has a relative everyone calls "crazy Aunt Katie," probably because she does things like sending my friend refrigerator magnets with mottoes like "Don't Congeal!" Goofy, to be sure, but she has a point. It's when we think we've figured out just which category we fit into, which box will contain us, that we're most likely to abandon the uncomfortable process of growth and change. So, despite the fact that the phrase was born of the insecurity we were feeling about where we've found ourselves at this point, I'd like to keep on defining myself as "in transition." The phrase suits me; it doesn't limit my mental picture of myself to a career or relational status; instead it tells people I'm still in the process of creating myself on every level. And, as it did the night of my reunion, it raises questions, starts people talking, and invites them to share the stories of the journey we're all on together.


Author's Bio

Sara Strozk lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she and her husband recently settled after years of wandering the planet. She's looking forward to charting and chronicling future domestic adventures.


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Song & Story Articles

|| The Breath of a Town || || The Window Kisser ||
|| Letting Go || || Out of Montana ||
|| PLEASE--REJECT ME! || || Sweet Release(Review) ||
|| The Results || || In Transition ||



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