By Susan Cox
The end of the year makes me think about change. I have finished one semester and have a break before starting a new one. This break switches my routine and gives me time to plan possible changes to my classes.
Winter has started giving me the opportunity to wear all those sweaters stacked in my closet. My college-aged children come home to visit, adding extra people to my house. I often make resolutions of things I would like to do differently in the coming year.
We can’t avoid change; it’s an inevitable part of life, and it comes in many varieties. Some we look forward to and some we don’t want or even dread. Other changes we know will be coming while others are unexpected. We may know a change is coming but may have mixed feelings about its arrival.
For instance, my youngest has just one semester of high school left, so he will be leaving for college soon. I know this change is coming and I am excited for him, but I will miss him when he leaves. While I am looking forward to fewer extra activities, I will have to adjust to a house that is too quiet. Mixed feelings abound as I think about this change.
How do you look at change? Do you fight it, dread it, anticipate it or celebrate it? Change can be scary, worrisome, exciting or all three.
For me, my son’s wedding at the end of this year brings all those feelings. Becoming a mother-in-law is kind of scary. Will my daughter-in-law and I get along? I worry about all the challenges that life will bring to this new couple, but I am also excited to see how happy my son is, and eventually there will probably be grandchildren I can spoil.
It’s OK to not be excited about change or to find change hard. However, with any change we can find good things to focus on. For example, when my children come home from college, the number of people in my house doubles bringing more noise, mess and trips to the grocery store. Additionally, accommodating everyone’s schedules presents challenges.
I can focus on these aspects of my children visiting or I can enjoy the added laughter, help with the dishes and chances for everyone to talk together. I don’t always like the added cooking (What? No leftovers?), but spending time with my children and watching them have fun together is worth it.
Unexpected changes that we usually view as negatives can still have silver linings. I found this to be the case when I interviewed Scott Murphy for The Republic’s cancer awareness section, Colors for a Cure, last year. Murphy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in his jaw. His treatment required the removal of the diseased part of his jaw including the gum, nerves and seven teeth, and rebuilding his jaw with a bone graft from his hip. Murphy had to relearn how to walk and get speech therapy.
None of this sounds good. However, Murphy became less judgmental and can now empathize better with others, helping him be more effective as a pastor.
Change isn’t necessarily good or bad; it’s just different than what we are used to. This difference can make change difficult since we don’t always know what to expect and we must move out of our comfort zone.
Going back to college was one such experience for me. It had been more than 15 years since I had been in school. Would I be able to do the work? Would the younger students accept me? How would I fit in classes, homework and all my responsibilities as a mother? Would I be able to find my classrooms?
Despite these worries, I took a deep breath and decided to see this as a new adventure. I see many of my students grappling with similar concerns, but they do the best they can to bravely adjust to this new experience just as I did.
Change can be hard at times, but focusing on the positive aspects of the change can help ease the transition. Instead of worrying about all the unknowns or things that will be different, embrace the change and enjoy your own new adventure.
Susan Cox is one of The Republic’s community columnists, and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. She is a mother, an adjunct instructor of English at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus and a substitute teacher for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.