What do you do when you find yourself in a new and uncomfortable situation?

I’m facing the reality that at the age of 53 I made the somewhat spontaneous decision to go back to school and get my master’s degree. When I made this decision, all I was thinking was that the program sounded like my kind of program, it’s something I always wanted to do, and I thought it would be fun. I assumed that it would be easy, something I would enjoy.

What I found was there’s also discomfort: discomfort because it’s a new situation, in being back at school, being in the gender minority, being the oldest, being a lesbian. Before class even started, I was surprised to find myself noticing these things.

Now I’m engaged in the process—the learning curve—of what it’s like to write a paper for the first time in 30 years, dealing with the new technology, working with financial statements for billion-dollar companies, and working with a team of men (not my people, not the same communication style).

So I had a meltdown 3 weeks into the class. The teacher couldn’t teach, there’s wasn’t enough structure or enough support. I couldn’t implement my normal strategies to solve problems. I was a failure. I cried. A lot.

And then I regrouped. I remembered that I’m not the only one having these feelings. It’s likely that most people in a new situation are experiencing some level of discomfort.

I realized there wasn’t anything wrong with me—this was natural. This is life. I evaluated my commitment to this process and realized that I am not a quitter. It became a challenge—which was the container I could put this process in for myself. I created my own structure.

What helps you deal with a new circumstance?