That we are in a collective and unprecedented liminal experience is pretty much beyond debate. We are also now at a point where we can see the return to something like normalcy being dangled tantalizingly before us, somewhere in the near-distant future. The question is where we want to go from here. The pandemic is a universally experienced imposition of reality where none of us had control. Emerging from the pandemic, however, is an entirely different proposition. We have choice. We have opportunity. We have agency. But what do we do with it?
It’s been a year now since we all went over the cliff together and entered the space of the pandemic. We have arguably been held in liminal space ever since, individually and collectively. That’s an entirely unusual, difficult, complicated and unprecedented place to be. Liminality usually defines the transitional space for individuals or small groups. It is rare that an entire society is plunged into the void, without clarity, guidance or a clear way out. A year on, we’re still in a liminal space. Here’s what that means, and what it could mean for what comes next.
I wrote about liminality a couple of years ago, as a framework for thinking about change and transition. I was in my own period of in-between at the time, and it writing it has helpful for me, and arguably resonated for many others. The thing about liminal transitions is that typically it’s personal or organizational. Today, it is societal. We are all going through the same transition, together, at the same time. That can be a bit daunting.
I wrote last week about the transition that I was undertaking to a new approach to time management. At the time, I presumed it would be a relatively easy change to make. I knew I needed new software. I thought that I already had the practices and concepts down. I believed that I had ample time to get things sorted and organized in time for the new year. I was wrong on all counts.
I’ve been exploring liminality and in-between spaces in a few posts. And while the structure is simple, and the ideas it offers are profound and meaningful, actual living in and transitioning through liminal spaces is often anything but clear, ordered or certain. There can be a great deal of fuzziness, frustration and even fear. I thought it would be helpful to explore what it’s like to actually live in the in-between spaces.
Change is a process. And while it is a difficult one, it doesn’t need to be quite so painful and messy as what we often experience. Better navigating change requires recognizing that most of the transition happens in the space between what was and what will become. We need to let go, and be guided through that transition. That requires rethinking some of what we know and believe about projects and change.