The Only Constant is Change
If you tell anyone that you're leaving your job, they'll immediately ask you what's next. They'll expect you to give them information about your next job, or at the very least, to tell them what kind of job you will be looking for. People like certainty, even when there's change afoot. Change without a plan is scary.
Yeah, change is scary. But it's also a huge part of life. Things are shifting constantly, despite our strivings for certainty. When we say we want to make a change, it sounds exciting. Almost daring. Like we would take into our own hands and wield a force that typically is being done to us.
Some people are at home in the world where Change is God. Members of this tribe love change, knowing that with it comes novelty, glittering challenges, and sometimes anonymity. We change-worshippers abhor routine, fear commitment, and become dissatisfied as soon as an environment grows too familiar. We even sense it before it happens. When a place starts to feel recognizable, un-glitteringly so, we begin preparing for departure. Instead of batten-ing down the hatches and locking the doors, we throw open the windows and have a yard sale. (We tend not to have very much stuff anyway). We don't say goodbye. We've already forgotten about the people and the place in our excitement. We're already living in the fantasy of the future.
As a change-lover, I learned the mechanism of life shifting, or totally changing several aspects of one's life: job, home, relationship, general focus. Life shifting is a bit like sky diving.
First you sense that a change is coming, or that you want to instigate it. Then you start to plan and dream. You book your flight up into the air, you might do some preparations. You might have that yard sale, acquire some new gear, let some of your friends know you're going up 12,000 feet into the air.
Then there's nothing left to do except head out to take that flight. As you're going up, you feel nervous and trepidatious; some regrets might even cross your mind (am I doing the right thing to leave everything behind?). But more than anything you feel excited, you feel adrenaline pumping as you enter that familiar feeling of "no turning back".
And when you get to the right altitude, you don't hesitate, you prepare yourself to jump. You know that it might be a difficult landing, and that there might be obstacles ahead, but those obstacles sound fun. Way more fun than remaining back where you were, in that place that had started to grow familiar, with those people you had started to get to know.
But there's no turning back. Choosing to remain in the plane is technically an option, but then you know you can't do that. You would hate yourself. And you don't even know how to stay put. It's a natural instinct to move towards the unknown.
So you jump! The new air fills your lungs, and your vision is full of a new landscape. You spiral down to a whole new life, having no clue where you might land. It's exhilarating as hell.
When you finally get to the ground, you feel like a whole new person. You've been through a free fall. You're in a whole new place, with new people, maybe even new weather patterns. Then you have to set up a whole new life, by yourself. Because it's unlikely that you know anyone in this new place. You can't call any of your old friends and family, because you know they'll be uncomfortable with the answer you give them when they ask what you are doing: I don't know.
I don't know.
Three of the scariest words in the English language.
But I'll figure it out.
And you do figure it out. You make a new life. You find a new house, new job, new friends. You meet new people and share different kinds of experiences. Until you start to feel that itch again, the itch that comes with increased knowledge of a place, that mundanefamiliarity that lacks excitement. And then you book your next flight up.
I'm not really a member of that change-loving tribe anymore. I now understand the balance between fearing and loving change. Years of fantasizing about unknown possibilities, jumping out of planes, and starting over simply wore me out. I jumped so often that I finally started to feel tired. And I also found some nice places and people that I felt almost nearly ready to get to know. I started to think about about building a life, rather than renting one. More than anything, starting to build required a perceptual shift, as I made a mental agreement with myself to delve into familiarity as a way of life.
As soon as I started to build, I realized it felt so good to create routines, so good to feel grounded, centered, and settled, so good to start to know myself. Before, by constantly living in a whirlwind of newness, I was 100% distracted at all times. I had never before looked inward. It was scary to see oneself, I realized. Maybe all those years I had been running from myself, as in so many clichéd movies.
Building a life meant learning to think long term, to simultaneously accept the mundane day-to-day but also to study the environment around me, to see how I could continue to grow and integrate myself into a community. And waking up every day in the same place meant I had to look hard at the way I'd been living my life. Always in a rush. Always seeking change.
To deal with the discomfort that came with staying put, I tried out daily centering practices: exercise, meditation, and writing. These practices, by forcing me to engage with movement, stillness, and processing, have helped me to cope with continuity. Instead of living an outward life which required constant excitement and drama, I started to focus inward. I discovered within myself an endless reservoir of meaning and learning. I started to appreciate myself.
* * *
After several years of routines and dedication to stability, I'm again in the throes of change. I knew it was coming, but surprisingly, I stalled. I had grown to love the word "commitment". I made oaths to it. I was committed to my home, my loved ones, my work, my projects, no matter what. I was not moving.
But the world moves us if we won't. I had forgotten that. In my preoccupation with stability, my change muscles had atrophied. But I'm re-learning. It's like riding a bike. We can never forget where we came from. Change is in my blood. What helps me move through the change gracefully are those same practices: movement through exercise, stillness through meditation, and processing through writing.
The grace achieved through these practices has helped ready me to transform my unexpected change into an intentional one. I'm starting my own business. The commitments I made to my place, my people, and to feeling centered are the foundation for my new work, which will be entirely comprised of my own vision. This very personal vision feels clear and heart-centered. It feels like me. This wouldn't have been possible if I was still immersed in my on-the-go sky-diving lifestyle. Before, I had no idea who I was. I didn't want to know.
You can try to initiate projects on the run, but will you have the bandwidth to grow them to maturity? Well-developed projects need time and space to incubate and flourish.
Are you too busy figuring out a new life to explore and act on your innermost desires? When we know what we really want in life, we cease to want to be distracted.
Do you get caught up in drama or upheaval, and feel like you're running on a hamster wheel, never able to sit still and to really feel out where you are?
If this is you, I highly suggest committing to self-inquiry for a little while. Why are you always moving so fast? What are you running from? What's keeping you from getting to know yourself? Yes, the answers may be difficult to confront, but you'll want to hear them.
I guarantee that sitting still with yourself, however uncomfortable, will lead you exactly where you need to be.