Perhaps you've heard the old adage, "The only thing constant is change"? It's a reminder to me that change is part of life and to grow is to change.
Some changes are welcome and beautiful; other changes are painful and challenging, and all change brings with it an element of grief. New York Times bestselling author and shame, vulnerability, and courage researcher Brene' Brown aptly defines grief as "the loss of normal." By that definition, any change brings with it an element of loss and by extension, grief.
Some changes like the death of a loved one, a new marriage, or the birth of a child are huge and rather obvious both from within and outside the change. Other changes are slower to manifest, and though apparent in small ways, can only be seen fully as we look in the rearview mirror of our lives.
Today I stumbled upon a rearview mirror experience and saw in a new way how very much has changed in my life over the past 25 years.
Thanks to TripAdvisor, I tried a new coffee shop in a part of town where I spent hundreds of hours during my formative years but have seldom visited since. I attended kindergarten, elementary, junior high, and high school at an independent Baptist school in inner-city Chattanooga. In addition to the K-12 option, there was also a university and graduate school whose campus was within walking distance of my high school. My parents both worked at the university, so as a high school student, I often walked the few blocks from school to my mom's or dad's office. I regularly passed The Bookstore which has recently been converted into the very cute coffee shop that I visited today.
I was struck by how much has changed physically on the streets and with the buildings that were such a central force in my formative years. The schools that I attended and where my parents taught and worked are no longer operational. Many buildings stand vacant, abandoned and vandalized. The small building where I attended junior high and high school has (as is typical of property from childhood) become far smaller than I remember, and the rooms, where I once bustled to and from various classes with my friends, are now overgrown with shrubbery and weeds. As I witnessed these changes I was both saddened and extremely grateful.
My sadness was that a place once so vibrant in my own history is now desolate and truly alive only in my memories, which are themselves suspect to regular revision as I continue to process my life. My gratitude was that I too have moved on; emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually, and relationally - those buildings and so much of what they once embodied are part of my past and valuable in my present only as they have shaped and informed the person I am today. I no longer look, think, believe, or behave as I did when I attended high school there. My world has grown so much larger than the 15 blocks in which I grew up (my parents and I lived about 10 blocks from the school and church that we attended when I was a child so my world as a child was small both physically and ideologically), and while I am grateful for many aspects of the stable and grounding experiences of my childhood, I am equally grateful that I have been supported and even encouraged to spread my wings and fly far from the small and narrow perspective of my past.
Often it seems to me that I can change my situation or I can change my perspective on my situation. Sometimes I do a little or a lot of both without really recognizing the magnitude of the changes and their effect until I look back and take stock of where I've been and where I want to go. To refuse to change is to refuse to grow, and while I get that growth can be scary and change can be challenging, I also know today that change has led to some of my greatest seasons of growth.
As I shared coffee, a pastry, and a board game with my son today, I was profoundly aware of some rather large shifts in my life from then to now - both philosophically and physically, and as I reflect on those changes, I am grateful for the ways I have been willing to be intentional, creative, and brave about my own growth and change.
How about you? How have you changed from the person you were 25 years ago? In what ways have you been intentional about your own growth and change? How would you like to change either your situation, your perspective, or both in the next 5 years and what steps would you like to take today toward making those changes a reality? What would it look like for you to pursue the personal, professional, and relational growth that you desire?
This Extrovert's Attempt to Use My Words to Make Sense of My Life