Beyond My Messy Middle: The Other Side of the Door.

 & 
March 2, 2024

Beyond My Messy Middle: The Other Side of the Door.

 & 
May 29, 2023

The campus was crisp on a clear January day. Regents Park, with all its beauty and history, surrounded the three-story, ivy-clad buildings, and the buzz of London disappeared as I stepped through the gates. These weren’t just any gates. This was the transitional portal from my untethered year, my messy middle, an existential quest that I had been on for the previous sixteen months, into my next chapter.

The thing about a transitional year is that by its very definition it can’t be planned. A framework can be laid but there has to be the expectation that things will veer off in unanticipated directions. Too much organization stifles fortuitous opportunity.

Over sixteen months, I explored Canada, the US, Costa Rica and Mexico, and then headed over to Europe where I based myself, at different times, in the UK, Spain, Amsterdam and Switzerland. Such variety because I thought I was looking for my where; in reality, though, I was looking for my what. I had a great deal of fun with the geographical travels, but the growth happened within me.

Uncertainty and loneliness visited, I questioned many things (not least what I was doing) and had to regularly push myself out of my comfort zone, but I also experienced awe, developed greater self-awareness and connected with outstanding people, many of whom continue to be friends.  

In March of last year, six months into my year-plus of transition, I went to MEA in Baja. I’d signed up for the workshop only a few weeks prior, not knowing what to expect. It felt right, as if the universe was speaking to me. Mind you, it was uncomfortable, even overwhelming at times, but ended up being the hinge that shifted my perspective, grew my confidence and opened up my heart. My cohort believed in me.

Trust was a big thing. I needed to trust that this nebulous, undefinable exploration was the right thing for me – an inveterate planner –and I needed to trust that unexpected opportunity would arise even when I couldn’t discern any sort of path in front of me. My time in Baja showed me that I wasn’t alone with my existential questions. 

So I went on with renewed fervour yet still no idea of where I might end up or what I might do to find purpose, community and ongoing growth. The messy middle continued to be chaotic but I sat more comfortably within it. I shed old habits and created new rituals, I stopped trying to control things and instead sought out new, unexpected opportunities. I made lifelong friends. 

In fact, it’s only in hindsight that I can see and marvel at the meandering journey I took. An amazing volunteer organization in Montreal led to the exploration of a writing retreat in Costa Rica, which morphed into the realization that London was still my home and then a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with five women I’d met at MEA, all this and so much more brought me to a place where a chance remark opened a unique and life-changing opportunity. When I was accepted into a university program to study Psychotherapy, all the pieces, like something out of the game Mousetrap, aligned and clicked into place.

The more I settle back into London and learn about psychotherapy, the more I know I’m in the right place. Every day I am filled with awe and excitement about, well, everything. I am content.

-Judy

Judy Ryan is an MEA alum who ran her own wine importing companies in various countries, wrote fiction endlessly and now studies psychotherapy in London, where she has lived for the past fifteen years. She rented out her house there in August of 2022 and went walkabout, writing about it in her blog: www.myuntetheredyear.blogspot.com

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