Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Change (aka Why I am one of the Luckiest People on the Planet)

A long time ago I had a very sad lunch with a friend I didn't know all that well whose marriage was ending.  It was a strange situation in that she had incorporated me into her circle of friends to the point where she felt comfortable asking a very large favor (the one I was being treated to lunch for doing,) but I had always thought of her as a "friend of a friend."  "People pleaser" that I am, I did the favor even though it took me more than 50 miles out of my way on my day off.

It wasn't a very fun lunch and the food was not especially memorable.  What stays with me is the conversation surrounding her soon to be ex-husband, although we didn't actually know it yet then.  The chorus to her complaints was always, "He's changed.  Why did he change?  I didn't change."

My challenge of the day became how many ways I could think of to tell her, "Change is good.  People change.  It's a good thing.  People are supposed to change."

While I was never sure he meant it as a compliment, my ex-husband used to say to me:  "You are constantly reinventing yourself."  Now I realize it is probably one of the best and most advantageous things about me.  I have embraced change for most of my adult life and I have never made a change which didn't bring me more happiness.  The changes my ex-husband witnessed were mostly of the surface variety.  He met and married me as a Clerk-Typist working at Mare Island.  For a year or two afterwards, I worked as a Secretary and then chose to down size to working part time at a bookstore while I "worked" towards my true passion, writing.  Of course that drifted to community college classes and the growth of my other passion, photography.  For awhile, I created fine art photography and actually sold it at galleries and shows.

An underlying theme in my choices has always been freedom.  Freedom of time.  Freedom of choice.  The ever present itch for freedom always made me suspect that wedding or product photography would kill the passion inside me.  Even if I could think of an outlet for my writing in a pre-Blogger world, chances are copywriting or articles would be equally suspect.  The thing that makes the artist starve is their own artistic attitude and an unwillingness to compromise.

I need to take a moment and express my appreciation that I was able to make those changes.  I know my ex-husband wasn't happy about them, yet I was lucky enough to do them anyway.  I am blessed two fold.  First, that I have had wonderful people along the way who enabled me to change, whether they were totally onboard with the idea or not.  Second, that I have always embraced change.

You know I don't mean simply the transition from Clerk-Typist to Photographer.  Although a lot of my changes do include physical aspects, it is the accompanying emotional aspects for which I am the most grateful.

Let me give you an example of how they actually work in tandem.  Somewhere near the end of my marriage, I decided I wanted to learn how to build a computer.  My father had recently purchased one put together by a Mare Island retiree and it really didn't seem like that big of a deal.  I thought you could fine tune a computer to be more what you wanted or needed if you built one yourself.  I thought maybe you could build more computer for less than you might pay otherwise.  Mostly, I wanted a good media computer because I was getting sick and tired of discovering new and wonderful music in movies only to find no one "in charge" thought it was worthy of being released on a soundtrack.  It might seem like a big leap, from Clerk-Typist to Computer Geek, but when you frame it under "Recording Geek" it might make more sense.  Especially if I tell you that a few years earlier I mapped out what I needed to do to transfer reel to reel tape family home recordings onto audio cassette and did the work myself.

Around the same time as when I got the itch to build a computer, my ex-husband's work was buying new computers and selling the old ones for a cheap price to their employees.  I saw an opportunity.  After several months, a nearly rebuilt computer and several thousand "God dammit's" screamed by me in of all places our living room,  he convinced me to pay someone else to build one.  Honestly, it was one of the defining reasons I later concluded we were incompatible.  See, I may have been born with the self esteem to attempt building my own computer like that, but I lost it for many years along the way.  I had already changed nine or ten times just to build up the self esteem to believe I could do that.  Finding out that the only reason my re-built computer didn't work as well as the paid for one was because I had underestimated the aspect of Dell propriety software interwoven in the Bios and Windows operating system changed me an eleventh time and probably pushed me towards the self esteem I needed to believe I could get a divorce.

I believe change is unavoidable and by extension an essential component of being alive.  Say no to change and you find yourself being an accomplice to a tiny portion of your own demise.  Oddly my father was actually a fan of change, or at least the growth of technology, and one of his favorite notions was that of a "paradigm shift."  A paradigm shift as explained and paraphrased via Wikipedia is a change in the basic assumptions, or paradigms, within the ruling theory of science.  Among my family it morphed into less of a term about science and more of a term about society.  We live in times where an individual can actually experience multiple societal paradigm shifts in his own lifetime.  Don't believe me?  Just think about all of the different ways you have played or recorded music at home and let your brain wander to as many of the accompanying changes that had to happen as you can imagine.  Darwin's theory of the Survival of the Fittest was referring not to the strongest as popularly presumed, but the "Most Adaptable to Change."  When those societal paradigm shifts occur, those most adaptable to change just bob and weave along with them.

Even the most reluctant to change have it thrust upon them as they age.  One day you look at the "Sexiest Man Alive" cover of People magazine and think who the hell is that?  You never realize you've been listening to your favorite high school songs for decades until you hear them in some venue calling them "oldies."

Change is good.  People change.  It's a good thing.  People are supposed to change.

Lately I've realized it doesn't come without a price.  Perhaps more than one.  The one I have encountered recently are the people you leave behind.  A lot of people don't choose change and have only the amount that is inevitable.  For someone like me, chasing change like a spiritualist chases enlightenment, only I can really grasp how much I've changed.  Put it this way, not that long ago the person who was me would have been completely intimidated by the me I am now.  She would have noticed my confidence and the ease of my smile.  Depending on which earlier sister, she may have been jealous and hated me or she may have wanted to hang out with me and hoped that whatever I had was contagious.  I can make that guess, colored with emotional speculations, because I have scattered friends lost along the way.  The losses of a paradigm shift between my view of the world and theirs.  We transitioned from chatting buddies to strangers who no longer knew what to say to each other.  The worst part is that sometimes as we part ways and they are stating their case, I know exactly what they mean.  I just no longer feel the same way.   I won't lie to you.  I have suffered heartbreaking losses this way.  Yet it was still worth it.  I still say I am one of the luckiest people on the planet.

Did you hear the part about "I never made a change which didn't bring me more happiness?"

The greatest gift my childhood gave me was a model of how I didn't want to behave.  My parents had good intentions, but like many, neither the training nor experience to confidently pull off a "No Loss" job.  Those losses as well as those wins shaped me into the person I am today, was yesterday and will be tomorrow.  It left me with just enough self awareness not to like what I saw and have the drive to change it.  Even while I wallowed in unhappiness, my drive pushed, "if it doesn't make you happy, identify the problem and edit it out."  Taking in just the portion entitled "adult life," my life has transitioned from a black and white Kansas to the technicolor of Oz.

From jobs to hobbies to learning about the present moment, I have never made a change which didn't bring me more happiness.

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