Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Cusp Years: From Glory to Glory

When I reflect on my adult life so far, I can identify sets of years that I call "cusp years". These are spans of one to two years in length during which my life undergoes a series of intense, formative transitions. During these cusp years, who I am as a person undergoes further definition--I wouldn't call it redefinition because it's an ongoing defining of who I am meant to be in this life. I am always becoming. We all are. But during cusp years, I find this especially true for me.

I can pinpoint two past examples of this phenomenon I want to share briefly. Note that I am not going as far back as my years as an undergraduate college student, or my years in high school, or my childhood, since these years are by definition marked by transition and transformation.

My first set of cusp years as an adult was in 2007-2008 (age 23-24). The following things occurred in this two year span: I graduated with my Master of Library and Information Science degree (late spring 2007); I made and acted upon the decision to move from my home state of New York to Pennsylvania, the state I now call home (summer 2007); I got my first apartment, in which I lived on my own for the first time, not counting dorm life in college (summer 2007); my father died (winter 2007); and, I interviewed and was hired into my first professional job as a librarian, at the University of Scranton where I still work to this day (early spring 2008).

The years of 2007-2008 were a crucible from which I emerged on the other side a more fully formed person, tried by suffering and the tumult of several formative life transitions occurring in quick succession. It is worth noting that the 9th anniversary of my father's death was last week, on December 21, and today is the anniversary of his funeral (December 27). May his memory be eternal. +

"Comforting Clay Hand-Held Cross" from Calypso Studios,
a new item I am finding particularly comforting this week;
the inscription reads "In Memory of My Father"
My second set of cusp years was in late 2010-mid 2012 (age 26-28). During this ~two year time span: I met Paul (winter 2010); became engaged to Paul (spring 2011); bought my first home, which is still my home to this day (summer 2011); planned a wedding (spring-fall 2011); got married (fall 2011); became pregnant with my daughter (fall 2011) and then gave birth to my daughter (summer 2012).

The transformations I experienced in late 2010-mid 2012 were all joyful and long desired, but my goodness, the short span in which they happened in my life made the transitions intense, much like the labor of child bearing and birthing. If only through the reorientation of my self and identity as I underwent marriage to my husband (a sacramental Mystery!), followed by the earthy reality of becoming a mother through giving birth to my daughter, I understand these cusp years in particular as when, in many ways, who I am was fully borne into this world. Identity is a complex thing, and there's no question my identity had changed, in some miraculous ways (I still marvel at the ways) by summer 2012.

October 23, 2011 ❤ Paul and I sharing a
kiss on the elevator at our wedding
reception venue as the doors close
Which brings me to now. It is winter 2016 (age 32), just a few days away from the transition into the year 2017, and I am finding myself again in the midst of a set of cusp years in my life.*

From the middle of them, it's hard to know precisely when they will have begun and ended, but here are the milestones I have or will experience, and the changes I am undergoing, even as I type this reflection:

  • In January, June, July, and August 2016, I was on sabbatical from work, because I was in the middle of my first year as a tenured member of the Library faculty at the University of Scranton.
  • In June 2016, I became pregnant with my second child. In October 2016 we learned our second child is a boy. 
  • In fall 2016, I learned that two of my longtime colleagues in my department would be retiring, one in December 2016 and one in May 2017. As a result of these transitions, my Dean offered me a new position, as the Library's next Information Literacy Coordinator, which will be in effect as of June 1, 2017. I accepted. (!!!!!!!!!)
  • As part of this new position, I will be permanently moving into a daytime working shift at my library. For context: I have been a second shift evening worker since 2008 when I first was hired at my library. To say this change in my work schedule, and quality of life, has been hoped for by me (and my husband) for a long, long time, would be an understatement. 
  • God willing, I will give birth to my son sometime in March 2017, after which I will get to take a ten week maternity leave. I will return to work from this leave into my new role as Information Literacy Coordinator, and into a day shift at my library.
  • I've also been approved by my Dean to work a flex schedule in January, February, and half of March (until I give birth), to help cover some staff shortages we are experiencing due to planned leaves and retirements. My working hours during these months will be 10am-6pm, except for just five Friday evening shifts remaining in February and early March: on these Fridays I will work the 2-10pm shift I have been working for the past seven years. 
  • My daughter, Bookie, will start Kindergarten next September 2017. 
The above news, especially the parts about my professional life, mean that as of this writing, I am no longer a regular evening worker. It also means I am looking forward to beginning in the role at my institution that my research these past eight years has prepared me to be able to some day undertake. Oh, and I will become a mother for the second time, this time to a son. 

Given all of this, I expect to wake up on a random day in September 2017, look in the mirror, and see the next version of myself that these cusp years occurring in 2016-2017 have formed me into. 

I am so very excited to meet her, even as I know all that has happened to me so far in my life will still be an essential part of who she is, of who I am.

Cusp years are when I become even more who I am (meant to be). They are transformative, progressing the crude work of my life "from glory to glory", if I can only just breathe through them, having their defining hallmark in my experience of them be gratitude and love. 

As 2017 arrives, I am taking a deep breath, and thanking God. 

Ultrasound picture of my son!!
I need to think of a nickname for him for the blog...

Christmas Day 2016, first day of my third trimester;
picture is of me, smiling and pregnant, in my church

A screenshot of my Notes app, containing
my countdown of evening work shifts remaining...

*I can't post this without mention of the Presidential election that occurred right in the middle of the set of cusp years I presently find myself in. The morning of November 9, I posted the following to my social networks: "An honest post to start this day: I am heartbroken and scared. Lord have mercy on us." It is a surreal experience I find myself in, where the wider world context is so very...broken...and yet there is the possibility for transformation in the work and space of our individual and collective lives, as a community of human persons in this world who are in relationship with one another. My friend Kevin describes this surreality very well on his own blog, so I refer you to his reflection and the commentary it provides, about navigating and holding the tension of things simultaneously going well and, well, not (to put it mildly), as a bit of a supplement to my own.