Tuesday, February 18, 2014

When things change

Phone calls are not the typical means of communication among my friends and me these days -- we're much more likely to email, Facebook-message or even text -- so it was unusual that on Thursday, I had not one but two fairly lengthy phone conversations with friends.

And coincidentally, both conversations were about changes they were facing. Friend A had just accepted a new job; Friend B was contemplating a house purchase.

The conversations were significantly different, the only common thread really the theme of change. Friend A was thrilled with what she was facing. After several years working part-time in marketing and office management for a very small business, she was about to start a full-time position with a larger company in a different line of work. I expected her to balk at the longer hours -- 9 to 5 instead of 9 to 2 -- but that part didn't seem to bother her at all. She was excited about new people, new challenges, and a new workday schedule. Her teenage kids were up for the challenge of adjusting to doing more for themselves after school, and her husband was encouraging about the extra money she'd be making.

Though I have no wish to make a job change myself, I could certainly relate to her excitement. I was more surprised by Friend B, who after many months of house-hunting had found the house that seemed to meet every one of her family's search criteria and yet couldn't convince herself that making an offer was the right thing to do.

"But it's just the house you wanted," I said, a little bit puzzled. "You won't find a better match. The alternative is to stay where you are. Why wouldn't you take this opportunity to make a change?"

Well, I suppose the answer should be obvious: because some people don't like change. Some people don't like it at all. Friend B is fond of her house and perfectly happy to stay there, because it's beloved and familiar, never mind that she'd been looking for a house just like the one she found for months and so was wavering about whether to take the leap.

I should be sympathetic to this. I used to be a lot more resistant to change myself than I am now. Or not so much resistant to change as just drawn almost magnetically to routine. I liked things to fit into their own established pattern. I liked having household routines, holiday traditions, annual plans with friends, events on the community calendar that I could return to year after year.

And to some extent I still do, but habit and routine no longer seem like the hands-on winner over change and innovation that they once did. A few changes happened that I could not prevent, and I discovered that there was something refreshing and renewing about having to adapt to new situations, even ones I hadn't sought out.

So now I feel differently about change. I appreciate it as a chance to hit the restart button, in a way. Of course, this is a particularly easy time of year to talk about embracing change. With week after week of frigid temperatures and snowstorms, it's easy to look toward the bright side of change. Underlying it is the hope that the season and the weather will soon change: warmer temperatures, longer days. In the middle of October, with school successfully underway and the days full of blue sky, sunshine and golden foliage, I'm perhaps less likely to sing the praises of change for change's sake.

But other times it seems like a not unwelcome sign of aging. Yes, in my 20s and 30s I loved the idea of tradition and routine, but I eventually learned that things change whether you want them to or not; might as well appreciate it rather than shrinking from it.

So indeed, this is a time of change, for both the friends who called me on Thursday and maybe for me as well. Each in our own way, we will learn to adapt, whether eagerly or resignedly. Nothing stays the same long, regardless of how much we might wish it would. Might as well reach out with optimism to whatever new thing life offers up next.

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