At a recent webinar I participated in a speaker advocated for people who write blog posts to make them more personal. I’ve always tried to separate my personal life from my professional life so my initial reaction was, “That would be a change for me!” And that got me reflecting on the nature of change.
Everyone’s personal life informs their professional life, through their point of view, attitudes, ethics and so many other aspects of their professional life. I thought, why not share things that impact me personally and inform my professional life? Particularly how change has affected me and how I perceive change.
My experience has been that most people are change averse, and I have a different attitude about change than most.
During my six plus decades I’ve experienced a broad variety of changes in my life – living arrangements, employment, relationships, and loss of loved ones to name a few. Some of the changes were voluntary, some were expected, some were forced on me and some came right out of the blue.
Over the years I’ve had over 20 different home addresses in 8 different states and one foreign country – that’s not including the four different dorm rooms in college, three months backpacking in Europe or a few internships in Washington, DC. I’ve lived with my own family members, got dropped into another family unit as an exchange student, I’ve lived with a variety of roommates, I’ve lived alone, and I’ve lived with my husband. I’ve learned a lot about adapting to new environments.
Since graduating from college, I’ve had three distinct careers. I’ve been employed full time by 12 different organizations and self-employed. Because of all the moves and jobs, I have a comparatively large social network (both online and in real life). Luckily for me, my loss of loved ones has been relatively few, but nevertheless, life altering.
Looking back at it, I’d say that I’ve seen a lot of change over the course of my life. These are my observations on change:
At its core, change is uncomfortable.
People like routine, they like to know what to expect. The typical family organizes itself around receiving a predetermined paycheck on a predetermined date. By the same token, on a larger scale, companies often stick to what they know, producing the same products and selling them to the same audiences because it is predictable. Human beings like consistency.
It is only natural that when change happens, whether intentionally or by happenstance, it results in discomfort. It forces us to ask questions that are challenging, sometimes questions that we may not want to know the answers to. It forces us to find new ways of doing things to achieve the results we want. Change forces us outside of our comfort zones. That is intimidating. No wonder people don’t like change.
But change is inevitable. A Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, is cited as saying, “change is the only constant in life.” (Personal revelation – I’m not that intellectual, I had to look up who said that.) We see that in our lives every day – economic change, political change, climate change, global pandemic. All these things impact our lives in small and big ways, and we are forced to adapt.
Yet there is a flipside to change. Change can be inspirational. Change can be liberating. Change can open up new opportunities for personal and professional growth. Although the changes that have happened to me over the course of my lifetime have had both positive and negative consequences, on the whole, my decisions to make changes and pursue different paths have enriched my life. As a result, I try to embrace change when opportunities present themselves.
Long before COVID-19 my husband and I decided that after retirement we would keep our property in the Adirondacks but move our primary residence to coastal South Carolina. To that end we purchased a condominium in our desired community several years ago and rented it out. We also moved into an apartment closer to where both of us worked in anticipation of an eventual move south, while we rented out our property in the Adirondacks.
Our first week in that new apartment we noticed a leak in the hot water tank at 9pm. We made a call to building management, a technician knocked on our door within an hour to stop the leak, and the tank was replaced the next day. All at no cost to us. Nothing is that easy when you are a homeowner! This was the first indication that our decision to make a lifestyle change might come with unanticipated benefits.
Somewhat to our surprise, we really enjoyed scaled down apartment living. We met fantastic new neighbors, loved the convenience of walking to work, restaurants and local entertainment venues, and we found we had more free time because we had less home maintenance to worry about.
Two years later, when a series of fortuitous events unfolded last spring, we concluded the time was right for a major life change. Even though we are several years from retirement and with a combination of both excitement and terror, we joined “The Great Resignation.” We decided to just go for it – move out of our upstate New York apartment and into to our South Carolina condo. We gave three months’ notice to our employers with no job prospects on the horizon, just a commitment to figure out the employment situation as it unfolded, come what may.
There is more change to come. Stay tuned for Part 2.
What do you think? Are we crazy, stupid, risky? Have you made a radical change in your life, what was your experience? Are you glad you took the risk, or do you regret it?