Monday, November 5, 2012

Reflections on change

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that dealing with changes that are thrown at us is a difficult task, especially in a work situation, but also in our personal lives. Scores of self-help books have been written on the subject of how to deal with change, how to start anew, how to let go of the past, how to let go of situations that we have outgrown, how to face the future, how to start today, how to think positively about change, how to rearrange our mindsets. The irony of life is that we change whether we want to or not. We can try to resist change, block it, ignore it, run from it, or drown it out. It doesn’t matter what we do; change will find us. We look in the mirror and find the subtle changes that tell us that we are getting older. We watch our parents grow old and pass away. We watch our children grow up, move away, and start their own lives and families. We cannot prevent any of it. We cannot make time stand still. No matter what we do or say, life goes on, people move on, careers end, and perhaps throughout all of the inevitable changes, a sense of humor is our saving grace. Or reading the words of others who have thought about and reflected upon the same things. At every point in our lives, we need inspiration, support, positive refills, and encouragement. It is an unfortunate misconception that adults do not need these things. I am often told that children and young adults need them more. And that may be true, but as adults, we still need to be inspired and encouraged. If we have faith in some higher power, something outside ourselves, if we belong to a church or to a spiritual society, we at least can nurture a lifeline to that part of ourselves that rears its head from time to time in an effort to tell us how things are going inside of us, in our hearts and souls. If we don’t have that, there are many books that offer inspiration and encouragement for many of the problems we face.

I often remind myself when I feel stuck in a rut, that some of the best things that ever happened in my own life, happened simply because I changed my life, after much reflection, confusion, disorientation and sometimes anger and depression. I left a painful relationship when I was in my twenties and chose to be alone rather than live a lie. I could have stayed and been miserable. I left a ‘safe’ job in my twenties (a unionized research technician job with great benefits that my father told me to keep) and chose to work in a non-unionized research position, one that allowed me to travel to international conferences, for example, Cambridge England, where I met my husband. I could have stayed in my safe job and refused to move on. But then I would never have met my husband or subsequently completed my PhD. I wasn’t focused on looking for a new relationship at the time I met my husband; I was in fact ready to leave my job in Manhattan after working there seven years, and was interviewing for positions around the USA when I met him in England. Meeting him resulted in my leaving my birth country in my early thirties and moving abroad in order to give that relationship a chance, learning a new language, and embracing a new culture, workplace and degree program. I was not raised in a household that thrived on change. My parents were good solid people, but their lives (and to some extent ours when we were younger) were defined by my father’s illnesses and job problems. Would they have loved to have traveled together to Italy and England when he retired? Of course. But by the time they reached the point when they could have done that, other realities took over their lives. My father died young, at sixty-seven. Neither he nor my mother got the chance to do many of the things their children have done. Their lives became more defined by fear as they grew older, mostly due to my father’s illnesses—afraid to travel, afraid to upset the daily routines, afraid to change the daily routines. That is perhaps the way of life, that each new generation does more and dares more than the previous generation. It’s hard to say. The point is that it is best to be proactive about change, to see the future and to at least try to adjust to what is coming. We cannot know the future, we can only live now, but I still think it best to be open to change and to actually choose it, instead of having it forced upon you. 

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