How to Handle and Manage Life’s Limbo

by Sam Cartagena

What happens when life doesn’t go as planned? When we’re caught between where we want to be and where we actually are? Sometimes that looks like leaving a job, getting fired, going through a breakup, or feeling stuck after graduation. There are certain times in life we simply don’t have a fully fleshed out plan. But, how we handle this “time in between” or life limbo is just as important as how we arrive to our milestones and destinations. It’s a lesson I learned first-hand.

I’d been working at my corporate job for almost 2 years. I’d just finished a huge project that, on most days, required 10-12 hours of work per day. Things were slowing down after that project wrapped up. But, apparently, they were slowing down so much my entire team was laid off.

I thought layoffs were something that happened to other people. I thought I was safe because I’d always had a plan: do well in school, get an internship, get a good job, and most importantly, work hard. But no amount of planning or hard work could have prevented my layoff in a way that would have also preserved my values. That took a long time to accept. And, speaking of acceptance, that was my first step in moving through my journey.


For someone that’s a big believer in earning what you want and planning for your future, “accepting” life’s limbo can be a difficult step to get past. It can feel like you’re being complacent or settling for what is. But that’s not what acceptance is about.

Just because you accept what’s happening doesn’t mean you’re accepting defeat. You’re simply acknowledging this is a new starting point.

If we don’t accept this moment as a new starting point, we’re already working from unrealistic expectations; stuck in the past or so focused on the future we’re not making any real progress in the present. When it came to my layoff, I spent weeks focused on what I could have done differently. Instead, I could have used my energy to focus on the present moment as a new starting point for my adjusted path.

Patience and Persistence

I almost allowed my layoff to make me pessimistic. I believed that, because my initial plan had failed, I was a failure. But I was reminded that sometimes you need to try multiple times, and go down multiple paths, in order to get where you ultimately want to be. Every turn is part of the journey, even if it wasn’t part of the original plan.

What do you see?

Close your eyes and envision your ideal life in 3 years. What do you see? How will you get there from where you are now?

I know, it can be difficult to envision the future when you’re busy trying to survive or figure out the present. When you have bills to pay, mouths to feed, or a broken heart to mend, hopes and dreams seem like a distant priority. It may not always be easy, but we have the ability to live in our present reality and simultaneously manifest an entirely new one.

One of the things that helped me move from unemployed to successfully freelancing, being a writer and entrepreneur, was visualization meditation – a mind-body connection tool that’s also referred to as “mental imagery or mental rehearsal.” Depending on how fidgety I was feeling that day, I’d spend 3-5 minutes envisioning possible paths. Just a few minutes of sitting still and thinking what could possibly come next.

Because the first step to manifesting a new path is envisioning it.

“Your mind must arrive at your destination before your life does.” – Unknown


If all else fails, be compassionate with yourself during and after this process.

How annoying is it when you’re explaining a situation to someone, and they immediately respond with, “Oh, I would have definitely …” fill in the blank with something brave, dramatic, or bold. We always think we’ll be our best selves in every situation, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes the instinct for self-preservation supersedes the more socially acceptable response.

Immediately after I got my first freelance gig, I started criticizing who I was during my unemployed/ in-between phase. I started nitpicking things I could have done better: I wished I’d been more productive during that day I’d spent 12 hours watching Grey’s Anatomy or at least used my time to be bolder on my blog. But that’s not what happened. I didn’t do what I should have done, I did what I needed to in order to survive at the time.

Trust Yourself

Before we go our separate ways, there’s one last thing I want to leave you with, and that’s a reminder to trust yourself. If you’ve found yourself in a life limbo, in between phases, or off the path you thought you’d be on, you’re not alone. Be stern with what you want next, but flexible with how you’ll get it. You may not have a grand plan at the moment, but you’ll always have your intuition and instinct. Even when it feels muddled or smaller than usual, it’s there for you.

Your path may have re-routed, but trust that you’re heading in the right direction. You will be re-routed more than once again. You will rebuild again. You are resilient.