Managing Life Transitions

I have a milestone birthday coming up.

(Hint: I spent 90 minutes the other day consulting with a Medicare specialist and thought my head was going to explode with all the options. It was not the first time I’d heard them, either!)

Live — and make life transitions — by design, not by default! Click To Tweet

Throughout my organizing career I have helped clients manage life transitions such as:

  • Combining households or welcoming a new baby
  • Repurposing “empty nest” rooms
  • Moving house (packing, unpacking, staging for sale)
  • Dealing with a departed loved one’s belongings
  • Setting up an office, or a schedule, to accommodate a career change
  • Downsizing now so loved ones don’t have to do it (as much) for you later

And, during that time, I’ve experienced some life transitions of my own:

  • Being laid off (not retired with benefits) from one career and starting my own business
  • Moving from one state to another
  • Experiencing the deaths of friends, family, and beloved pets
  • “Losing” those who simply moved away or left whatever group we were in together
  • Transitioning in and out of volunteer jobs
  • Phasing out hands-on organizing in favor of genealogy research and writing
  • Working fewer hours by necessity, but also by design

What is retirement, anyway?

I’ve described myself as being semi-retired for years. And I’m still semi-retired now, only more so. What — and when — is retirement these days, anyway? Is it when you have “enough money”? When you are “old enough”? When you are too tired or sick to work anymore?

I don’t think retirement looks these days the way it used to for most people. Those who are self-employed have probably already integrated their working and home lives to a large extent. And those employed by others were forced to do the same over the past couple of pandemic years. (Many of them discovered they prefer working from home!)

Sometimes retirement is a life transition so gradual that no one else but you notices it’s happening. Once an organizer, always an organizer, I think. I have met few “retired” organizers who wouldn’t still help someone out under the right circumstances.


Meanwhile, May is a transition month, from spring to summer.

(Did you know? Despite what the scientists say about the solstice, summer really starts on June 4th. Why? Because when I was a girl, school would always let out for summer vacation on, or very near, my birthday. Which, despite my general satisfaction with school, suited me just fine.)

And, really, isn’t each new day an opportunity for transition? A chance to start a new habit or stop an old one? Another opportunity to step outside one’s comfort zone and learn something new?

Today I’m feeling old and tired — temporarily, though, I hope and assume. I’m also feeling a bit sorry for myself, since I elected not to attend the in-person NAPO conference this year, which I have enjoyed so much in the past. Running constantly in the background are a number of friends and family who are experiencing painful situations in their lives that are hard to know about, and sympathize with, without absorbing some of their pain, frustration, and worry. (Not to mention ongoing national, and worldwide strife.)

So, in the spirit of living by design, and not by default, I Googled up some quotes about life transitions, aging, and retirement to cheer myself up.

Maybe they will help you as well?

Quotes about life transitions

Popular version: “Note to Self: You are not too old, and it’s not too late.”

Full quote: “You are not too old, and it is not too late to dive into your increasing depths where life calmly gives out its own secret.” — Rainer Maria Rilke


“Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss.

To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind.”

— Fred Rogers


“Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over, she began to fly.”

— A modern twist on an old proverb


“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

― Fred Rogers (yes, again)


“My Mission: I’ll stop stressing about the future. Instead, I’ll take that wasted energy and put it into enjoying the present — each day — just a little bit more.”

—Karen Salmansohn


Here’s an all-time, all-purpose favorite:

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

— Wayne Dyer


When one door closes…

The open window of opportunity

I was looking for a quote about the metaphorical hallway that connects the metaphorical door that closes and window of opportunity that opens.

And I found this: The Hallway by Rev. Ellen Debenport. It’s an easily-digestible blog post, but if you like it you’ll be interested to know she wrote a whole book about it!

Always believe in yourself

Finally, I think it’s time for me — and you? — to re-read this blog post I wrote a while back: Always believe in yourself.


Did any of these quotes resonate with you?

How do YOU manage life transitions?

Please share with us in the comments below!

Copyright 2022 by Hazel Thornton, Organized for Life and Beyond
Author of What’s a Photo Without the Story? How to Create Your Family Legacy
Please contact me for reprint permission. (Direct links to this page are welcome!)

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  1. Janet Barclay on May 2, 2022 at 11:30 am

    This really resonated with me, Hazel. As you know we are about the same age, and I’m also going through some health stuff right now. I’ve started cutting back on my work hours too, but not to the point where I refer to myself as semi-retired, and most of my clients aren’t even aware of it.

    I think, like most life transitions, the key is to focus on the positive aspects as well as any factors that are within our control. No sense wasting time and energy worrying about the other stuff!

    • Hazel Thornton on May 2, 2022 at 11:40 am

      I agree completely with your last two sentences and have written extensively about that. Maybe I should re-read some of my old blog posts!

  2. Linda Samuels on May 2, 2022 at 11:44 am

    Hazel- There is so much wisdom here and recognition that life throws us many curve balls. Some we’re happy to catch and others we’d rather not have to deal with at all. So in this time, when you’re not feeling 100% and you’re also absorbing some of your loved ones pains, I’m sending you extra love and hugs.

    Your collection of quotes are wonderful. I especially loved the Rogers quote about transitions and growth. When we’re in the midst of the hard stuff or the uncomfortable aspects of transition, it’s difficult to feel or see our growth. But given time and perspective, the best outcome is growth.

    One of my favorite quotes by playwright Tom Stoppard is, “Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” And while transitions sometimes feel like super slow exits, they are bringing us gently to another place.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 3, 2022 at 8:48 am

      Thanks, Linda! I appreciate your comments. I also like the Tom Stoppard quote, which fits right in with the ones I chose.

  3. Julie Bestry on May 2, 2022 at 2:35 pm

    Milestone birthday? Tsk, Hazel, who looks at Medicare stuff when they’re about to turn 30? 😉

    Seriously, though, this is wise and important stuff. I’m terrible at transitions, even the positive ones. I put off buying a car even though the old (ancient) one was dying and take far too long to “move into” a new computer, straddling the old and the new, unready to to complete the transition. I think I was better at this when I was younger — high school to college to grad school to new jobs in new cities.

    But I haven’t made any real transitions (home or career) in two decades, and I wonder if I will ever retire. I’m tired of where I live (the location and the city) but am struggling to even consider the transitions to be made. I need to focus more on the language of these quotes you’ve provided to give me inspiration about the positives of change, as I tend to dwell in the negatives even though I’m good at thinking about the positives *for others*. You’ve given me a lot to consider!

    • Hazel Thornton on May 3, 2022 at 10:14 am

      Oh my gosh, if you only knew how I’ve agonized over some supposedly-fun and supposedly-within-my-budget spending decisions lately! I had my new TV for a couple of weeks before taking it out of the box and beginning the set-up process. (I still haven’t “cut the cord”.) And, although I can generally LIST the positives, I don’t always FEEL them. It really is easier to do for others.

  4. Seana Turner on May 2, 2022 at 3:49 pm

    What an inspiring collection of thoughts. I love them all!

    I have a client with whom I’ve been working since he retired. He had his own business, and the process of letting that go was difficult. I’ve been privileged to walk through many memories with him.

    He shared a piece of advice he received, which was to think of this next phase as “Act 2.” I love this idea.

    Each new phase will differ from previous phases, but there are joys to be found in all stages of life. COVID definitely shook things up for so many people. I have mostly returned to life as it was before, but I now many who have adjusted their work habits.

    For me, the most important thing is not to fear what might be coming, but rather always be on the lookout for something into which I would like to move. Neither gripping too tight to the current nor running with abandon into something new.

    And as our friend Linda would say, being mindfully present for every step along the way.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 3, 2022 at 10:19 am

      Thanks for your comments, Seana! They led, in my mind, to this proverb (I call it that because there are so many versions and attributions): Hope for the best, and plan for the worst.

  5. Janice Norris on May 2, 2022 at 10:48 pm

    Oh, oh, oh! I love this! I’m too tired to be coherent so I will only say that I know you’ll be excited to find out that the true first day of fall is September 5! It coincides with the day I turned the exact “right” age for the school year I would be completing over the upcoming nine months.

    • Hazel Thornton on May 3, 2022 at 7:55 am

      Yes, right after Labor Day! That’s when school starts AND fall begins. None of this mid-summer back-to-school nonsense. And scientific equinox. I agree completely. And what fun (assuming you were excited about school) for it to be your birthday! Thanks for letting me know!

  6. Janice Norris on May 3, 2022 at 1:22 pm

    I was always excited at the beginning of the school year and maybe not so much by the middle…

    Your post really resonates with me and all the changes I’ve experienced throughout my life. The last 30 years would demonstrate very good examples.

    In April, 1996 my younger son was killed in a car crash and today I accompanied my older son to his PET scan to determine what surgery will be involved in his colorectal cancer diagnosis.

    I’ve relocated 3 times in the last 20 years. I’m 70 years old and the most recent move was about 6 months ago to upstate New York, where I never imagined myself living. The Covid shutdown and Aaron’s diagnosis were pretty much simultaneous. I was unable to travel here for 18 months. That meant I couldn’t see my child or my grandchildren. That’s not ever how I pictured my life! So, I uprooted my life, released MANY things, said goodbye to a work family I dearly love. That work family helped me obtain an excellent job here. It was rough for the first three months. I was commuting, 45 minutes each way, often in vicious winter weather. I was not too sure about my new work family but that’s changing, they’re getting to know me and me them. I finally found an apartment less than five minutes from work. Wow, is it expensive! But I seem to be able to easily afford it! At an age when I “should” be retiring I’m making more money than I’ve ever made, I’m near my family, and I seem to be healthy and able.

    We don’t know what’s around the corner, literally! I was talking to my younger son 15 minutes before he was killed. Everything that happens teaches us something. I would gladly trade those lessons to have him back and, still, I’m presented with more to learn.

  7. Teri on May 7, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    Oh Hazel – You ALWAYS deliver. The caterpillar spoke to me. I’m slightly older than you and still trying to figure out how to do more me and less work/obligation. So my May change is to only work 5 days a week! I’m now taking Fridays off (hear that universe?!).

    • Hazel Thornton on May 13, 2022 at 7:40 am

      Yay, that frees you up for more lunch dates. Right? 😉

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