This post will be something sort of a stream of consciousness, as this is how I am processing change these days.
Accepting change is not always easy. There are trade-offs, so even if we are moving toward something great … or at least better … the loss of what we know is a bit unsettling. What if my new gig doesn’t work out? What if I don’t like it? What if I didn’t think through all the ramifications of change?
In the past, changes in my life usually were initiated by me – I decided when to move or when to change jobs or how to spend my time. As I’ve gotten older, there have been significant changes and, more often than not, I’m on the receiving end of change. This seems counter-intuitive – I should be more in control, not less, right?
On a personal level, I don’t feel like I’m older and yet I am. I’ve started thinking more about retirement, not because I want to stop working but more about whether I would be able to stop if I wanted to do … something else. I’ve put off travel – initially because I didn’t have time and now because my mother needs me to be at home. I’ve always thought about going to interesting places around the world and maybe spending a few months living abroad in one country or another. Will I have the chance to do that?
My mother coming to live with me and renovating my home were other major changes in my life. I have a roommate – something I haven’t had since 1990 – who shares a fairly small living space. This change has been huge. My daily life has been altered. The renovations are different – they came to an end. Now, I can sit back and savor the upgraded accommodations because they make my life better, easier and more enjoyable. My mother also makes my life more enjoyable, though I can’t say that my life is easier than it used to be!
About 6 years ago, I wanted to “up my game” in terms of reading. There were a lot of classic books that I had read ages ago or that I had missed along the way. So, I made some changes in the way I chose my books and turned to reading some great stories written in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It was a wonderful experience and very rewarding! I loved the process of selecting books and sharing my views on Goodreads. It was not only fun, but it made me think about big ideas and the use of language and finding one’s voice. All great, right? The downside is that I’ve missed books written in the 21st century – the new works that have defined or reflected the times. I can go back and read these books, but will it be the same? Have I missed something by not staying current? I’ve paused my book-reading activities for the moment, but will pick it up again soon and need to decide on an approach – back to the classics, start with the new or some mix of the two?
Changes in work have been some of the most challenging for me in the past decade. For many years, work was the source of my intellectual and creative energy. I was always excited to be at work and push things forward. I could see where things were going and it was great. It’s like that saying, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” because I never felt like I was slogging through my workload. I looked forward to going to work.
Then, things started to change a bit. I was more stressed and tired than energized. The work started to change and, though I liked the new projects and my colleagues, I didn’t feel as confident working on the new stuff. I was finding myself adjusting to the changes that were being made for me. I didn’t feel in control anymore and wondered what other changes were coming to my life?
I’ve used the word control a couple of times and that’s what it comes down to for me. It’s not about controlling other people, it’s about being able to have options and choose what works for me. For a while, I felt that I had few options and so felt dictated to by … that’s just it … no one was ordering me to do anything or limiting my options. It was a mindgame and I was playing all the roles! Unfortunately, I wouldn’t see that for a while. So all of the changes and stress and perceived powerlessness were combined in a downward emotional spiral. It was irrational, but it was my reality and of my own making.
The good news is that I didn’t fall too far or too fast – I was able to grab hold of something and eventually, everything turned around. Now, I’ve found a path upward. It is challenging and I’m not always moving in a straight line (are there upward spirals?). But, it’s a new dawn, a new chapter, a new focus and renewed hope. I’m not sure what will be the eventual destination, but it’s a good feeling. I’m still tired and don’t have a lot of energy to engage the world, but it’s progress. I am getting joy from work and family and friends. It’s great to be climbing to the top of the hill and when I get to the top, the view will be amazing … I know … I’ve been there before.