The Importance of Owning Our Transitions

A street in Rome

A street in Rome

Remember when you were younger and the path was so clearly laid out before you? I sure do. There was never a doubt that I would go from high school to college and then some sort of graduate or professional school. Not everyone’s path is laid out on the same trajectory, but during our younger years, most of us had few choices to deviate from the inevitable.

But then at some point, we reached a point at which the transitions became our decisions. There was no clear “Now you do A, then B, then C.” Sure, you may have people “advising” you on what to do next, whether you should take this job or that one, get married, have children. And you may feel societal pressure to do certain things as well.

But ultimately, the decisions on which transitions to make and when to make them are ours and ours only.

We must own our transitions.

Change is never easy and it’s often scary, especially once you really, really decide to go ahead and go for it, whether it’s starting a new business, tossing an unfulfilling career to the side, getting a divorce, starting an exercise regime, or whatever transition you’re making.

But it’s so important that we don’t sit around and wait for someone to tell us it’s OK to make that transition. No one can do that for us. And even if you have the “approval” of people whose opinions you value, you’re still the one who actually has to put the work into making that change.

This is what I mean by owning your transitions:

Make the decision to change something in your life, and then give it your all to make it work, accepting the consequences no matter what.

And, incidentally, giving yourself credit where credit is due.

I’m coming up on nine years in Italy next month, and I’ve been thinking a lot about my decision to move here back in 2003. My decision to say “you know, I really don’t want to be a traditional lawyer” and pursue freelance writing, which still includes legal work, instead. My decision to try to build a life within the confines of a lifestyle I knew very little about but wanted to learn and incorporate into my very soul.

The only way I could’ve made it this far was by owning my decision to make that transition and by taking control of my life path. To be honest, I’m still a little amazed I did that when I was 26.

Seems a lot crazy looking back on it, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am so very grateful for all that these last nine years have brought me, all the good, of course, but also the struggles of beginning a freelance writing career, those early days of making absolutely niente some months and living on pasta with garlic, olive oil, and peperoncino (on good days); the challenges of surviving in a new culture with rules that I never even thought to consider, like the fact that here in rural Calabria, women and men often still sit at opposite ends of the table at group dinners and most women turn down il vino with a wrinkle of the nose; the disappointment that some family and friends just never could get on board to care about what I was feeling and experiencing.

Yup, all of it. I own it all. It’s mine all mine, and no one can ever take any of that away from me, for better or worse.

I’m now coming up on 36 in October, and I know I have still have lots of big choices and decisions before me. Recently, the 26-year-old me has come up and tapped me on the shoulder to remind me that no matter how old I get, it’s still all about owning my transitions, my choices, my decisions.

And summoning up the courage and strength I had nine years ago and have only built upon since, I know I’m ready.

I can do this.

Are you ready to own your transitions?

62 Beans of Wisdom to “The Importance of Owning Our Transitions”
  1. 07.14.2012

    It is interesting when a post appears on your screen and you can relate. That is what just happened to me. Thanks.

    michelle Reply:

    So happy to hear that, Pat! Thanks for coming by 🙂

  2. Aabe Emababari Saana

    Thanks for this wonderful lesson you’ve taught me. I’m about to take a decision that i think will affect my life positively but i was recently thinking about what others will say about my decision. Now i know i have to own up the transition.thank you once again for your write-up is inspirational.

    michelle Reply:

    Best of luck to you on your decision and transition!

  3. Erica

    Thanks so much for another inspirational post 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks for reading, Erica 🙂

  4. Pat

    This has really struck home. My daughter who will be 26 this month recently moved to Germany for a job. She is so happy and I couldn’t be any happier either. She is still going through the settling in period of getting everything in order (only there since May) but she has always wanted to do something like this. I really give her a lot of credit as I do you. As you well know you gain so much from experiences like this that very few people have the opportunity to do. I am sending her the link 🙂 Thanks always for your inspirational words.

    michelle Reply:

    You’re being such a great mom, Pat; that support is *so* important to your daughter right now, trust me 🙂

  5. Anne

    I needed to read this this morning. Thank you!

    michelle Reply:

    Thank *you* Anne!

  6. AmyEmilia

    When a piece just “pours out”, that is your authentic voice. Good one, Michelle! Of course you can do it… you have already proved you have the guts and determination. So, do it again – whatever it is! 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    Grazie AmyEmilia!

  7. 07.14.2012

    Brava Michelle! What a continuous source of inspiration you are, for many of us.
    This strikes so close to home for me, as you know my transition from one successful career to a big floating question mark, has been the best decision I ever made. And in full conscience and belief that whatever hardships would come had to be dealt with as part of the equation.
    We owners of our transitions rock.

    michelle Reply:

    Big floating question marks tend to bring the most fulfillment don’t they…I mean, in the long run. Not when you’re crying in the shower wondering what the hell you’ve done 😛 xx

  8. SW

    I agree 100%, Michelle. And like many of the other commenters, it hits home, for me (like so many of your posts do!). I’m coming to a point in my life where I’m going to have to start making some big decisions, about the future, and what path works best, for me. One thing that makes it all easier is recognizing whatever I do, it’s *my* choice to make and one that I have to make independently, and that caring about what other people think or say, is an enormous waste of my time.

    I think we could all take a little inspiration from Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” 😉

    michelle Reply:

    Best of luck to you, SW, as you continue your journey YOUR way!

  9. Alex

    Well you’ve been missed! When I read your posts (all of them from your day one) what I see is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am presently following in your exact foot steps. Quite uncanny as we are from the same areas in PA. :o) After a 2 year journey to deal with the “draw” that is impossible to explain and not many care to listen to as you know, I have recently acquired dual citizenship and now am in the process of packing. Transitions?????……. “whether it’s starting a new business, tossing an unfulfilling career to the side, getting a divorce, starting an exercise regime”,………. how about all the above and a few more……my journey will end and begin in only a few weeks and your timely posts have kept that light at the end of the tunnel bright and for this I thank you. Well done again Michelle….I will blogging on this two year “journey & beyond” shortly and will share the link…..I think these types of journeys need to be shared for all those who dream, who pursue the dream, and who sacrifice it all for their turn at bat…..your are an inspiration to all of us…
    Until next time,

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you for this wonderful comment, Alex. Please do share your link when it’s ready; I look forward to following your journey as well 🙂

  10. 07.15.2012

    I haven’t had a huge transition since I was 18 and moved away from friends and family to attend college in Seattle. Since then, my transitions have been less geographic, say. Leaving a relationship or job, not pursuing that graduate degree. All moments where my heart thumped down to my hands and feet and I made a decision. And once I did, I felt like the sun was shining again. My shoulders were a little lighter, my breath more even.

    For so long I was looking for that one things that would make all the other parts of my life fall into place. I’ve only recently realized there is no one thing. Life will continue to be a series of transitions, what I like to call the “toe-curling, arms-to-the-sky, full-throated rebel yell celebration.”

    michelle Reply:

    That is a beautiful way to describe that moment of freedom, Nichole! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  11. Gil

    Great post. You owe of this to your own ability to push yourself and get things done! I think that in order to do what you have done one would have to have the drive in her/his genes! You are an inspiration to more people than you will ever realize…

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you, Gil; I agree a lot of what we are is already inside of us from birth…I was just saying that to Paolo this morning 🙂

  12. 07.15.2012

    sooo very true-another great post! because as long as we enjoy our life(+our choices) with all difiiculties and good moments, we are the winners! thank you for your inspiration and sharing this power…

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks Jana!

  13. Sandy

    Great post as usual ! Grazie!

    michelle Reply:

    Grazie a te, Sandy!

  14. 07.15.2012

    LOVE this post, Michelle! As you know from our recent exchange, I’m a former US lawyer now living on a small island in the Bahamas. I’ve embraced this transition and am excited to see what unfolds next for me. As for you, nine years into your Italian journey, you share heartfelt wisdom and energy with us all. YES YOU CAN for whatever your next transition may be. Thank you for this post.

    michelle Reply:

    Hee hee…YES WE CAN! Sounds familiar 😉 xx

  15. 07.15.2012

    From one Calabrian to another…well done! And how brave. The transitions can be the most groundless of times triggering us to go back vs. forward. I was once told, “The new life is always better than the old.” I’ve found that to be true.

    Here’s to all of us keeping the courage and faith in our transitions. xx Gina DeVee

    michelle Reply:

    Oh I love that, Gina, about the new life. Thank you so much for sharing!

  16. 07.16.2012

    I love this so much. 🙂 Last year I changed my whole life, selling nearly everything, moving to Europe for three months to recover from some traumatic events, then moving to Australia to live on a goat farm and start over with my man. 🙂 It’s been terrifying and wonderful, heart-breaking and soul-strengthening. I’m SO glad I did it, so glad. 🙂 Have been feeling a little shaky about it all though, thanks to some folks undermining and trying to crush me for my choices. Your post came at the perfect time to put some iron back in my soul. 🙂 Thank you. XO

    michelle Reply:

    Yay for goats! And boo to those that would undermine your happiness and success…keep pushing forward, girl 🙂 xx

  17. 07.16.2012

    Oh Michelle this resonates with me more than you realise. I did exactly this at the age of 32 and packed up lock stock and barrel to live in Crete where I lived happily for 10 years. A holiday trip back to Australia with my 3 month old little girl put an end to my Cretan transition when I was unable to return due to ill health. The positives from all this are that I have my health back – my daughter now 16 has had a wonderful education here is Australia and I plan to return to my transition once she has left school. As you say, own it, be proud of it and live it! There will be pitfalls along the way – but it is so invigorating, so liberating and so much fun. You know you are really alive and not living some mundane life – what I call “slow death in suburbia”. (The title of my book when it is published!) Thank you – you are as always, refreshing and wonderful to read. Ciao Francesca

    michelle Reply:

    Love that title, Francesca! Keep us posted on that book!

  18. 07.16.2012

    I really love this post. It’s so true for me that I get to own my decisions and my transitions. And I like change and shifting my perspective. That means trying things. When I fail, though, I can’t blame anyone but myself. When I succeed, I get to bathe in the victory all by myself. 🙂

    michelle Reply:

    Onward and upward, Barbara! Thanks so much for reading and commenting 🙂

  19. Calabrian Kathleen

    Again, thank you, Michelle for sharing! You have a wonderful ability to motivate and encourage people, by being so open about your own personal journey. I so look forward to reading your posts as it helps galvanize me and bring forth my own courage. As well as your inspiring words, I selfishly love hearing about and ‘feeling’ the essences of Calabria.

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks so much, Kathleen; it’s a true pleasure to share a little of the essences of Calabria, at least as I know them 🙂

  20. 07.16.2012

    Thanks, Michelle. Everyone seems to be saying the same thing, but this soooo resonates with me. With everything that life brings at that wide open stage when it isn’t “point-A-to-point-B” anymore, it is so important to own my transitions, and not let the transitions just happen to me. This, in fact, is the basis for most of the major decisions I make that others don’t always understand…the idea that you can’t pre-program how you’d like your life to be, but that it won’t be anything close to what you dream of unless you open yourself up to the possibility and start out in the right setting…thank you for putting it into more eloquent words than I could muster!

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Melissa; you’re right that many people probably won’t understand your decisions…the people who love us unconditionally, though, will keep on loving us anyway 🙂

  21. 07.17.2012

    As redundancy is my specialty, I’ll echo previous comments but add a note of appreciation. As one about to embark on a journey similar in some respects to your own, it is no small comfort to hear that, despite the early tough times and meagre victuals, you have no regrets. I dearly hope that we feel the same way about our decision but I can honestly say that we take full ownership of it.


    michelle Reply:

    Best of luck to you as you move forward, Scott, owning every decision along the way 🙂

  22. 07.17.2012


    It would seem to me that if you keep writing as you have in this piece, you will soon have to be making decisions about your next book to stay in direct competition with Paul Cohelo. This piece smacks of “wisdom of the ages” in modern form. Hmmm, know a good publisher?

    Your article which I totally agree with in concept and content is the antithesis of the dangers described in my blog item which I recently posted entitled; “Life would be great except for Them!”. (

    It would seem to me that as you have so eloquently written here about “owning our own transitions” would in fact take away all opportunities from me to look outside myself and blame my seemingly misfortune or miscues in life on others or just as bad, to not make decisions. By owning my own decisions and not being afraid to make those decisions, I can conduct my life in a much more mature manner, a practice that took me nearly 6 decades to discover. Of note here, I must say this whole process is made somewhat easier by being around and with someone that is totally supportive and not directive in life.

    Just last night during a REI KI session with a man who was on his way to face some extremely tough family decisions it became apparent and known to him that he may want to recognize that ALL of his valid guidance in life came from and will come from “within”. That “still small voice” we all have heard at one moment or other and is the bearer of great wisdom and truth. This interior “Guide” is something we should not only pay attention to, we may also want to seek it out actively through meditation.

    If I am to make valid decisions from guidance within and “own” my own transitions as an adult in life then just maybe I should recognize that which is in reality directing my life. Of course that something has many many forms, names and concepts and is a personal choice for all. For me and me alone I call it “IT”.

    MIchelle I am so thrilled to see this piece as you have presented it. It rings of honesty, truth and courage. This type of thinking will always enable you to keep moving in life in a positive direction. Thank you once again for moving information from the “Hidden” pane of “Johari’s Window” to the “Open” pane. We are all now just a little closer in life and shall cherish you for that.

    Love and light

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Richard. I just read a quote about making your head shut up long enough so you can actually hear your inner voice…similar train of thought 🙂

  23. Having the courage to make the transition is really the hardest part – it’s all gravy after that! Nicely written!

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you Lisa 🙂

  24. 07.19.2012


    A wonderful piece! As a 63-year-old who is still trying to make the leap across the pond to bella Italia, I envy you your courage and your ability to own your transitions. Marriage, divorce, career transitions . . all those seem easy now compared to this decision. Hope I can take a page out of your book soon, before it’s too late! It’s a lesson I started to learn when I first met Ashley & Jason Bartner at La Tavola Marche — can we old folks change? I hope so! Grazie!

    michelle Reply:

    Sounds like you’re well on your way, Linda 🙂 Thank you for coming by and sharing your experiences!

  25. awedree

    Really needed this right now in my life Michelle-Grazie mille!

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you, as always, for reading, awedree!

  26. 07.22.2012

    Thank you for this. I’m on a verge of a transition myself. Coming home from a scholarship in China to a choice of settling down in Poland – or moving to London and looking for a job there. Risky and I’m facing a few months of unemployment and eating through my savings. But if I don’t give it a go, I will always feel like a coward. Your post is exactly what I need to hear right now!

    michelle Reply:

    You are in the midst of such an exciting time as you continue to grow and learn…enjoy! And thank you for coming by and sharing your thoughts 🙂

  27. 08.13.2012

    Hi Michelle,

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I have been in a transition period since I lost my job at the end of March. It wasn’t long before I realized that I DID NOT want to do the same type of job that I had, and I also did not want a “job” that simply paid the bills. By good fortune and the greater powers that be, I connected with someone I once did some writing work for who has hired me as a freelance writer. I had forgotten that writing has always been something I found joy and fulfillment in, and after a flurry of online research on freelance writing and finding your website, I started to think “wow, can I really write for a living and do it on my own schedule?”

    I feel a sense of hope, excitement, and newness that I have not felt in a long time. Thank you for sharing your courage.

    On another note, I just visited Italy for the first time this summer and absolutely fell in love. I am excited to look through your recipes!

    michelle Reply:

    Wonderful Nadia! Best of luck on your journey 🙂

  28. Jane

    Hi Michelle, I am thoroughly enjoying reading your posts and they are all striking a deep chord. I am currently going through a transitional phase, as my heart is being torn between three countries – my home country (family), the country I live in now (amazing job) and the country of my new found love (my man). I was studying Italian in Lucca earlier this year, when I met the “man of my dreams” – sounds cliche I know! But his timing in my life is perfect- the past 5 year personal journey suddenly makes sense. Italy is a country I deeply adore and would love to live in. But I feel a little nervous that I am giving up some amazing things, jobs, family. Reading your blog is tremendously helpful and providing me with the ability to more clearly process my own thoughts.
    So, for that, I thank you.

    michelle Reply:

    So happy you’ve found me, Jane; thanks so much for reading and commenting, and best of luck on your journey 🙂

  29. 10.10.2012

    Love this post. Thank you. I remember going through a similar transition around 27/28 (just two years ago), when I no longer felt I needed my parents’ approval or support to live my life the way I wanted. I’ve always taken my own path, but it was always heartbreaking when people couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get on board. Things are changing; it doesn’t devastate me as much – if at all – anymore, which is liberating. My husband and I are moving to Italy in July 2013, and we are both fully embracing this transition, no matter what anyone thinks! We are ecstatic! Love reading about others brave enough to follow their hearts!

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences, Carmen…and best of luck with your move!

  30. Heather

    I just want to say that I’ve been reading your blog now for about three years, and that it has often been a very inspirational and sometimes comforting thing for me to read on days where I need a little cheering up or a kick in the behind. It has been a lifelong dream for mine to be a permanent resident of Italy (I studied abroad there for 1.5 years in college, and have visited several other times), but sometimes it just feels so impossible that I’ll ever find a way to do that successfully. Luckily for me, my husband-to-be is just as passionate about finding our way over there, so we’re slowly but surely working our way there. I have two semesters left before I graduate with a BS in Nursing (I also have a BA in International Relations), and he is about to begin a master’s program in English Education… he is also a professional classical pianist and piano instructor. We still don’t know exactly how we’re going to get there or if our degrees/skill sets will be in any way helpful ; we just know that we will. Just working hard, hunting out oppertunities and letting the chips fall where they are meant to fall.

    Sorry to ramble. I just wanted you to know that your journey has inspired me and gives me hope for our future in Italy. I know it will be hard but I also know it will be worth it.

    michelle Reply:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Heather; best of luck to you and your husband-to-be! And auguri!

  31. 12.12.2012

    I love this post! Its message is so important to our lives, and it resonates especially with me as I am nearing my college graduation: a huge transition. I am often extremely influenced by others opinions on what “I” want to do in life, especially by my family who I am very close with. However, this has given me a new perspective: that I personally need to own my transitions and put in the effort to get where I want to be. It is a scary thought, but oh so empowering…thank you for that!

    michelle Reply:

    Best of luck to you as you continue your journey, Cait! What an exciting time 🙂



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake