As a Further reader, you know that Brian’s signature slogan is: Keep going.
After a few years of change and loss, I’ve taken to an adjacent midlife motto: Move on.
While the pandemic accelerated some of the shifts, the truth is that this is a poignant time for our sandwich generation. Disruption is part of our daily lives; no matter how resilient you are, it can be a sucky challenging time.
That’s why when I read Serena Williams’ essay announcing her impending retirement from tennis in Vogue, I could totally relate:
I hate that I have to be at this crossroads. I keep saying to myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time, I’m ready for what’s next.
The perfect statement about the imperfect nature of acceptance. So, how do you find serenity when it’s time to move on?
What’s striking about Serena’s candor is her emphasis on the struggle of moving on from something that has defined not just her career but her as a person.
I’m going to be honest. There is no happiness in this topic for me. I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain.
It’s a myth that acceptance is a graceful, magnanimous act. Psychological acceptance is an emotionally driven, messy, ongoing process.
One of the key ideas underlying acceptance in psychology is that difficult emotions are an inescapable part of life: at different times, we will find ourselves sad, angry, disappointed, bored, frustrated, grieving, heartbroken – the list goes on. No one, even the most even-keeled individual, is free of these emotions.
The natural initial reaction is resistance, which Serena admittedly did her fair share of by declaring leaving tennis a taboo subject at home. But in her essay, she’s modeling how to let go by sharing her struggle with the world and acknowledging those brutal thoughts and feelings.
Put Some Spin on It
Keep in mind just because you decide to move on, you don’t have to surrender yourself entirely to an unrealistic ideal. Making peace is just that; finding the places you can accept and not dwelling on the rest. As sports psychologist Sian Beilock points out, making a significant life change as Serena did isn’t the end-all.
[It’s] not taking away your entire identity, it’s taking aspects of yourself that you value and putting it towards something different.
The word Serena chose to describe her retirement — “evolution” — is telling. It’s not a euphemism; it’s a mindset. When life lobs hard choices your way, acceptance Serena-style is how you rally.