On Change

Change is sometimes the best. Change can bring new hope, new resources, and new vigor. I live in upstate New York where winters can be very rough. The change that comes with Spring brings neighbors outside and back to the community. Everything feels  friendlier.  Sometimes a change is what we need to renew. A change is as good as a rest, as my Grandma used to say. Sometimes change gets us out of unhealthy environments or relationships. If society never changed, I would not be able to vote or have my own credit card or own property.

Change is sometimes the worst. With change comes ambiguity, and the chance that things could be worse. Change can mean loss, even a change that is generally positive. When I moved across the country for professional opportunities, it was overall a good thing. I had chances to grow and learn and stretch myself in ways I wouldn’t have done otherwise. But it meant leaving my family behind. Positive change can also be followed by negative backlash. I would argue that a lot of the political climate in the US right now is due to backlash from the progress made under the previous administration.

The other thing about change is that it is continuous. It sounds cliche, but humans are literally always changing. As a developmental psychologist, it always strikes me how adaptive we are as a species. We react to changing contexts by changing our selves. This allows us to survive and flourish in the face of difficulty. This isn’t as Pollyanna as it may sound. Sometimes those changes lead to dysfunction – things like attachment disorders protect from the emotional devastation of rejection, but make healthy relationships difficult, for example. The goal of adaptation is survival, which is not necessarily the same as optimal development.

Recently, I’ve been through a lot of change personally, just as we all have been through a lot of change as a church and as a society in the last months and years. (I know many of us have strong feelings about changes made in the First Presidency this week.) And I don’t know about you, but I find myself reeling. It’s like I can’t adapt fast enough and so have just ended up confused and bewildered, and, if I’m being totally honest, a little bit paralyzed. All this big change can start to make one feel as though they do not have agency…things keep happening to us, things that are out of our direct control. One of my favorite things in Mormonism is the emphasis on agency – it comes from God, and he will not take our agency away. We have to make choices.

My new motto is from Kerry Washington, “You can be the lead in your own life.” There are certainly things happening that affect my life drastically that I cannot control. But I am resolving here and now not to relinquish my agency. I can still make choices. I can still. I can still influence my small little sphere. I can get up every day and do my best work. I can be kind and smile at the people in line at the grocery store. I can educate myself on perspectives I may not understand. I can love my husband. I can advocate for my students and help them be successful.

It is still frustrating to not be able to be able to influence things the way you want to, especially when things aren’t going the way you would choose for them to go. I’m not saying I am ready to settle, or that I’m not still frustrated. But my goal now, I think, is to try and stop wasting energy on things I can’t impact directly, and redirect that to things I can. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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3 Responses

  1. Wendy says:

    This is so well written and so important! Thank you for speaking these truths and giving us these reminders. Claiming authority over our own lives in every way is so empowering!

  2. Em says:

    I read your post earlier and just came back to read again. What struck me was the “you can be the lead in your own life” — I thought of it particularly because I have students who are constantly confusing lead (the element) and led (the past tense of lead). So when I first read it for some reason I thought “you can be the [very heavy mineral] in your own life.” Which I think is absolutely true. You can be the star taking control and you can also be the thing dragging yourself down. Anyhow, my two cents. Thanks for the post!

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