I don’t know who said it, but I have heard the phrase “Change is the only constant in life.” Although it’s a bit of an oxymoron, it’s still true. Life always brings change, sometimes we even yearn for the change. Like a senior in high school who is chomping at the bit to graduate and move on to college, ready to change the world. Or in the summer, we long for the winds of winter to arrive and bring the wonderful white glory, complete with snowshoeing, skiing, and the cold.
Other times we don’t want change to come. We dread it. We want things to be the same because we are comfortable. Comfort brings consistency and predictability, a familiarity that feels safe. We know that when we get up in the morning, we are going to go to work. We generally know the challenges that we will face, and equally important, we know how to approach them.
Change brings a host of emotions. It can elicit fear, excitement, anticipation, dread, joy. It’s amazing how facing a change can bring so much excitement and fear in the same breath. Back to a graduating senior. Excited to finally be out of mom and dad’s house, and yet also afraid of giving up the safety net mom and dad provide. Once you’re out on your own it’s a bit difficult to curl up in your parent’s basement and wait out whatever is going on. They aren’t necessarily there to bail you out. It’s all you. This type of change can leave your feeling like you’re walking a tightrope without a net.
Other times the change we face bring little positive emotion. It is scary and confusing, and can bring out resistance, stubbornness, and anxiety. Often, we don’t want to do things differently at work. We have the mindset, ‘This is the way things are… it’s the way they work… there’s no need to do things differently. Leave well enough alone!’ People take refuge in the security of the known, the routines. It is predictable. B follows A, and it works. It’s difficult to find value in change, because our minds are closed to new possibilities. Because of this we might throw up roadblocks and work to maintain the status quo. The change provokes anger and resentment.
We’ve been experiencing change, after change, after change, this spring. Our oldest graduated from high school. My wife retired after 35 years in the education profession and is starting a massage business. Our youngest is rapidly becoming an adult (with occasional jumps back to the toddler years!). It’s been a season of significant life changes of us. And as we face each change and come to terms with our new normal, I must ask myself how I will respond. How will I approach this? How will I react when our youngest asserts his independence? How will I support my wife in her ventures in life? How do I adjust to meet the new life that awaits us with only three in the house? What mindset and outlook will I adopt?
Change is indeed inevitable, and as life changes, it’s important for us to change with it. If we fail to adapt to our new circumstances, bitterness and nostalgia await. We begin talking about the ‘good ‘ol days’, when things were better. We romanticize about the past and idolize the way things were. I believe longing for the the good ‘ol days happens because we are unwilling to acknowledge a new reality and move into it. We remain stuck in the past and are unable or unwilling to embrace our new future. Yes, with change things are going to be different. But isn’t that part of what makes this life journey so rich? We grow with change.
Another funny thing about change is the speed at which it occurs. Sometimes it is almost imperceptible. It feels like a time warp, and we aren’t really aware of it until it’s over. That kind of change can make you do a double take and say, what? When did that happen? My son is 19 now? Our kids grow up and become independent over the better part of two decades… or was it in the blink of an eye? Other times, change is immediate. It challenges, pushes, and stretches you to your limits. The loss of a loved one, for example. Whether fast or slow, easy or hard, we still must adapt and survive.
Radically changing one’s location, like selling your house and moving aboard a boat, doesn’t magically, or fundamentally change you. But, leaving behind the comforts of a traditional life, leaving behind our safety net, and letting go of our routines will most definitely change us. Our perceptions and view of the world, our beliefs, and our passions will be forever changed!