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  • Writer's pictureDana Kent

I Wish To Live Cage Free

Updated: Jun 10

June is the time of graduations and new beginnings. Over the last few weeks, I have had the pleasure of attending a few graduations, and I wanted to take some time to reflect on the importance of change and, most importantly, why this passage is vital for our growth.


New jobs, new relationships, new schools—they all represent the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another. While some transitions are unexpected and unwelcome (like the ending of relationships, death, or job loss), others are achievements we've worked hard for, yet they still come with fear, trepidation, and uncertainty (such as job promotions, graduating from high school or college, or moving to a new place). We all know that these shifts often bring rewards and growth, but the fear accompanying them can be almost crippling.


A few weeks ago, I attended the graduation of my amazing and powerful niece, Sienna, from Clemson University. It seemed like just yesterday she was using the couches in her parents' house as a gymnastics vault. But in the blink of an eye, here we were. As I cheered her on as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma, I secretly knew the fear she was carrying—the same fear that many in her class shared. I, too, shared that fear of the unknown after graduation and distinctly remember sitting at the University of Vermont, feeling an acute sense of "Holy sh*t, what is next?" It was so crippling that I almost didn't want to graduate from college just to avoid facing the next chapter. While the fear may seem unreasonable to some, it felt capital-T TRUE to me.


On the heels of Clemson's graduation was the graduation of my partner's equally powerful daughter, Annie, from high school here in Vermont. I saw the same fears, thoughts, and trepidations in her. These young students, although younger than my niece's classmates, shared much in common. They started their freshman years during the COVID-19 pandemic, their faces masked, and their social interactions limited. They entered a significant moment in their lives with the usual worries about change, compounded by navigating a global pandemic. It was an almost impossible ask of these young minds and bodies. This new environment persisted for at least a year into their high school and collegiate years. It shouldn't surprise any of us that as they walked across their respective stages to receive a diploma, they were scared.


In the face of fear and uncertainty, those who make it to the other side of graduation ceremonies find a land of opportunity. An opportunity to write their own narratives, not the ones others have drafted for them. And let's not forget the group of students who may not have graduated—they, too, must face the "what's next" thoughts


In a previous post, I discussed the Season of Grief and my forced transition after being "dumped" from my long-time position with my previous company. In hindsight, I was probably ready to make the shift but was too afraid to take the leap. This change, though not my decision, led to the most significant growth period in my life, one that I desperately needed.


Despite desire for growth, our minds and bodies tell us to avoid emotional and physical pain, so why are these shifts important for us to pass through? The best analogy I've heard, which still resonates with me today, was shared by a dear friend who had gone through a similar shift. She had just read "Untamed" by Glennon Doyle (if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it). She mentioned a part where Glennon talks about a cheetah named Tabitha, who has lived her entire life in a cage. Tabitha is well cared for, safe, and fed three meals a day. She doesn't have to hunt for food or worry about predators. By all accounts, Tabitha is safe. But she has never experienced the wild. Glennon ask herself, "I wish I could know what is happening inside her right now." The connection is that there is a Tabitha in all of us, yearning to break free from the cages we exist in by birth, choice, or circumstance. When opportunities arise to leave that cage, why are we so scared to step into the wild? We can choose to stay in the cage or be wild, free, and fearless. Yes, this comes with risks and opportunities for failure, but a life without failure is an existence without the opportunity to see what we can achieve, and we miss the chance to realize our best selves.


I, of course, made it out of that Economics class at UVM and walked across the stage to receive my diploma, followed by the biggest change of my life: traveling west. At the recent high school graduation, one of Annie's friends pulled me aside and asked me, "What would be one of the biggest lessons you could share with me?" Holding back tears and feeling instant pride and gratitude, I shared some wisdom I had learned. I said, "Imagine what you want for your future self and go after it unapologetically. Fail, make mistakes, and keep going. Learn to read your intuition when you find yourself in a situation that doesn't honor your future self and walk away from it. Don't be afraid to change your friend groups. Experience the fear you are feeling and go through it. I promise you will be okay if you keep your future self in mind because when you feel that fear, you are in exactly the right place."


So, as you embark on your own personal shift or transition, be a goddamn cheetah and live wild and free.


How will you TODAY experience a cage free life?


With Love and Brevity,


Dana

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