Change is the one thing in life that never changes–and I’m not talking about coins. That change is a constant force in our lives isn’t a novel concept. A quote about “change being the dominant factor in society today” is attributed to Isaac Asimov, with lots of dissenters pointing to similar comments dating back to 500 B.C.
The versatile word can be used as a noun or a verb (transitive or intransitive) and, depending on how it’s used, means many different things. Change can be gradual or instantaneous, positive or negative, expected or not, and of varying magnitude and intensity. The impact may be minimal, enormous, or somewhere in between.
Most of us learn to live with the gradual changes in our lives. We adjust to changes in our aging bodies, the community, and the world around us with varying degrees of grace, tolerance, and acceptance. We might not even notice until we see an old photograph, and then we’re amazed by how much has changed. The alternative to adjusting is to become angry and bitter about things over which we have little or no control. Most of us do at least a little of both.
Events in my life this past year have caused me to ponder the nature of change. Because it means so many different things, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. As a visual and experiential learner, I wanted to figure out a way to see the impact of change on my life. In the end, I decided to graph it. Not on paper. That would require figuring out a way to quantify change AND a memory I don’t think I’ve ever had. But in my imagination–in a generic sort of way.
The underlying idea is that on any given day, each of us deals with varying degrees of change. Some days–probably even most–it’s just the ordinary, everyday stuff that goes with living and growing older. We might tweek our daily routines a bit here and there in response, but more often than not, one week looks pretty much like the next. So a graph of this kind of change would be more or less flat, with little blips here and there that you can’t even see if you stand back and look at the big picture.
Add to that graph all the changes that one expects to happen. The old flat line now has spikes for things like getting a driver’s license, graduating from high school and/or college, setting up house, settling down with a life partner and that kind of stuff. Depending on the event, the spikes may even produce plateaus at varying heights that remain well above the old “normal” for weeks, months, or even forever.
Like water seeking its own level, our desire is always a return to that original line–the lowest possible level of change. Or if that’s not possible, to the most recent low point on the graph. Consequently, our natural tendency is to resist change with every fiber of our being.
Some say that fear of change motivates the resistance. I disagree. It’s about time management. Dealing with change is time consuming. The bigger the change, the greater the disruption to already busy routines. Figuring out the new routine and informing and educating those impacted by the change is just that much more to do.
Add everything else to your graph. Think traumatic events, critical decisions, and other things that forever changed your life. Now there are several places, at least on my graph, where a bunch of spikes are clustered together. Sometimes the changes were related–like moving out of on my own, coming out, and dropping out of college. Sometimes they are totally unrelated events–like my father passing away in July, getting a book deal in August, and splitting up with my partner in September.
I see those groupings of spikes as major turning points in my life. Whether I saw them coming or not, events changed my life in ways that made returning to the old normal impossible. Tweeking things wasn’t an option. I had to change.
Through all this pondering I figured out that change doesn’t bother me nearly so much as the process of changing. I’m not a toe-in-the-water kind of guy. No edging in gradually, adjusting to the temperature over time for me. Nope. I’m jumping in with both feet.
Life is short. There’s no time to waste, and a ton of stuff yet to do here at…
My Glass House