Change is a strange thing, is it not? It’s as exciting and thrilling as it is terrifying and fear-inducing. In many ways change is the only constant throughout our lives. Our lives are drastically different than when we were kids, and and probably even from just a year ago. Many aspects of our lives change over time – our personality, the people in our lives, our living circumstances, career, and so on. You would think that over the years we would simply accept change as an integral part of life, and yet we are still often perplexed and frustrated by it. Why is that? I think a major part of it is that we naturally crave control and continuity. A lack of change in our lives makes us feel like we have autonomy over what’s happening – we feel like we’re the one in charge. Our routines go uninterrupted, our days are predictable, and we feel like we have a pretty good handle on everything. But how often does that state of bliss last? Never as long as we’d like. Something inevitably happens that throws everything off its seemingly perfect course.
But change isn’t always bad, right? In fact, change can be an incredibly wonderful thing. Without change we would never grow, we would never progress, and we would never fully experience everything life has to offer. For proof, think back to what you were like 10 years ago. For me, that would land me right smack dab in the middle of high school. At the time, I was an incredibly shy, awkward, and timid kid. I was stuck in a shell and was afraid of standing out. Not to mention, I had a pretty poor sense of style and some truly terrible haircuts. I, for one, am certainly glad that I have changed from that geeky 16 year old. Now, that’s not to say all changes since then have been positive. Far from it. But my point is that we need change in our lives, both good and bad. The good changes are true blessings, while the bad changes help us put things in perspective and help us appreciate those aforementioned blessings.
So, why exactly is change on my mind? Well, it’s because my life seems to have been filled with even more changes than normal lately. Dating back to March I’ve moved into a new apartment, I’ve begun a new relationship (Hi Alyssa!), I’ve taken on new responsibilities within some my organizations, and even more recently I’ve started a new job. All of those collectively have made for a rather tumultuous time, to be quite honest. Each one individually is a change I wanted and desired, all of them great occurrences in my life. But that doesn’t make them any less overwhelming. The life I had just 6 months ago is completely different than it is as I’m writing this. I’m incredibly thankful for each of these changes, but it’s that most recent turn of events – my new job – that really has me pondering the full spectrum of change.
If you’ve followed along with this blog or you’ve had any conversations with me at all you’ll know that I’ve been frustrated with my career at the YMCA for quite some time. I’ve long had a desire to make an impact and a difference in the work I do and that hasn’t always been the case with what I’ve done that last couple years. As that frustration has grown so has my desire to make a change in my life, specifically as it pertains to my career. So began the job searches and the dusting off of my LinkedIn profile. Over the course of a few months I applied to a handful of jobs, and either did not hear back from them or didn’t even get an interview. That was incredibly discouraging. I’ll be honest, I’m someone that is typically resistant to drastic changes. I like my routine and my control as much as the next person. But I needed something to change. That made the seeming monotony that much harder of a pill to swallow.
And then one day I came across a job opening that caught my attention. It was with a different YMCA in a different position – a youth and teen director. For months I had been telling people how I would love to work more with teens and make a difference in their lives. Well, here was that opportunity. Fast forward a little bit and guess what – I got the job! That should be the end of the story and this post, right? I wanted something to change, and it eventually did. The lesson here is that persistence and determination will eventually pay off. Not quite.
More often than not I feel like changes are pretty swift and instantaneous, whether we want them to be or not. We don’t have much time to really process what’s happening, we simply react. That was not the case with my career shift. I wound up spending a total of six weeks after I accepted my new job in order to help with the transition. That is a lot of time to process something. I can’t say that I’ve ever had that much time to reflect on a change and think about its impact on my life before it’s actually happened. Let me tell you, that is a strange place to be. On one hand, the change I had been yearning for was finally something real and tangible. I envisioned great things happening with this new job. But at the same time, that doubt creeps into the back of your head. Is this really the best decision? Are you sure you want to do this? What if it’s a mistake?
Prior to saying yes to the new job I hadn’t really considered all of the ancillary changes of leaving my current position, either. I was ready to say goodbye to the work itself, but was I really ready to say goodbye to everything else? As much as I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, there was still a certain level of comfort that I know I took for granted. I would miss the shorter commute, I would miss knowing where everything was, and I would miss having some clue about what I was doing. But more than anything I would miss the people. Now, my branch had undergone some major changes of its own over the summer, so I was accustomed to saying goodbye to coworkers. But that doesn’t make it any easier. The reality is that these people who started out as strangers became friends. They were people I could confide in and people that would lift my spirits when I was down. They supported me within my work, and in many cases, my endeavors outside of work. Even the people I didn’t know very well were familiar faces that helped establish consistency and continuity. Was I really ready to say goodbye to these people and this place?
That was something I had six weeks to consider. I was conflicted. It’s not like this was my first time leaving something or leaving a job. I knew from experience that I would move on and would establish myself in my new setting. But when you have six weeks to question something you tend to over-analyze it. Having an end in sight also brought to light the aspects of my job that I did like. And with that came more doubt and questioning. Maybe this isn’t as bad as I thought.
The last couple weeks at my old job I actually started to split time between there and my new branch. It was definitely exciting to be getting to meet my new coworkers, but that also left me with uncertainty about when I would see some of my old coworkers for the last time. If there’s one thing we might desire more than control I think it’s closure. If something does change in our lives we like to put our final stamp on it as a sign that we’re ready to move on. I didn’t feel like I had that closure, and as a result it didn’t feel like that my move was final. So again there was doubt. What if you regret leaving? You didn’t say goodbye to _____, what if you never see them again? Those are only a couple of many similar thoughts I had over the previous month and a half.
I mentioned at the very beginning that change is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. My career shift has perfectly exemplifies that notion. This is a change I’ve sought out for a long time and I am incredibly excited to start this new chapter in my life. Yet at the same time I’m a little bit saddened and quite a bit scared. I’ve mentioned some of the doubts I’ve had. But the thought I’ve had more often than not is this…What if I fail? I am absolutely terrified of failure. I don’t want to embark on something I’m not fully prepared for only to fall on my face. And here I am, voluntarily changing a major aspect of my life, essentially inviting the failure. I had the control, but did I really want it?
I also mentioned earlier that change is an integral part of our lives. It’s necessary. If we do not change we will never grow and we will never reach our goals. That’s what I had to remind myself of throughout those long six weeks. This was a change I needed, despite how scared I may be. Before I even applied I told myself that I would regret it if I didn’t at least go for it. And I truly believe that. I can’t say that I loved having six weeks to look at this change from every angle. It allowed me to truly process everything – my excitement and preparedness for my new job, my appreciation for my old job, and my friendships.
And if I fail, so what? Things change.