Changes

Sometimes everything seems like a dream because it’s too twisted to be true. As in a dream, life is moving at breakneck pace while the future keeps happening in surprising ways, and I don’t have the capacity or desire to attempt any predictions.

It’s not that I don’t have long term plans. I have many, and I have obtainable goals with clearly defined objectives. Some of them are easily measurable, like money; others are not as easily quantified. For example, goals to appreciate diversity, embrace change, and learn tolerance are areas of continuous improvement. A liberal college seemed like a good place to find such a foundation. To quote a professor and personal advisor who always seems to have the right words for every situation:

Good education usually, even necessarily, entails discomfort on your part as new ideas are encountered and your thinking is stretched beyond its familiar boundaries. The feeling of discomfort, therefore, is actually a sign that you are paying attention, and recognizing the otherness of the phenomenon being explored to your own everyday world. Progress in learning comes when initial discomfort yields understanding rather than reaction, indicating that your mind is resettling in its new expanded terrain, rather than retreating to its safe “homeland.”

There was a time when I got up precisely at the same time every morning, ate meals at prescribed times, did defined tasks all day, and went to bed at the same time every evening. I had a good job, made a good wage, and kept things in order. Community involvement was discouraged and so all my efforts went into my own pursuits; the lawn was free of weeds and neatly trimmed, my cars were clean and new, vacations were nice and carefully planned, and I made it a point to seek out unique cultural events. Human expression fascinated me. I devoured books that explored immigration, phases, and culture-shifts. I overstepped unwritten boundaries while staying carefully within the social bounds of my community. The extramural vista was refreshing, even though I knew I was looking back into my own small life.

Recently, I met a colleague for coffee in Phoenix and we caught up on the changes of the past few weeks. And, so much has changed. There are new hires, and others have moved on to more lucrative positions. It’s the reality of this career, but when it happens to those so close to me it becomes much more real. I have a lot of mixed feelings; I’m glad because I know their move was what they really wanted, yet, I am sad because we had so little time together. Now I’m expected to fill their shoes and more. They were incredibly bright, articulate people—the brightest and best; could someone please tell me what I’m doing here? The pace of life is fast, the business executive scene all the more so. To stay in the game means hounding opportunity for everything it can offer. The focus isn’t on chasing opportunities and climbing the ladder—that is a sure recipe for failure. This mentality is always looking ahead, is thinking before acting, learns extremely fast, refuses to be victimized, and capitalizes failure and loss as information assets. The same rules apply as in most other jobs: do what you say and say what you do, under-promise and over-deliver, and guard your reputation with integrity at all times. Where will I be in five years? I have absolutely no idea—anything can happen.

That’s the great part about change. Today I am here. Tomorrow I will be there. I don’t know when, or if, I’ll return. I feel like a survivor; every day is a gift, every place an experience, every relationship a memory waiting to be made. To squander even a day is unthinkable.

Sometimes I think about what I don’t have. I have schedules but no routine. An extravagant lifestyle but no family. Many friends but few companions. Nice digs but no home. An address but no community. The movie, “Up in the Air” haunts me. Will I follow perks from airport to airport, only to discover that I’m the only one who makes it my life?

Here I am, my thinking stretched far beyond its familiar boundaries. It’s uncomfortable—like a good physical workout—and I notice things, pay attention to others, recognize patterns and appreciate randomness (but see less and less of it). There’s added wonderment, as my world keeps expanding. The learning curve only gets steeper. Embrace change. Nothing is harder.

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