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Friday, May 14, 2010

Time for a Change

"Time for a Change." That is the title of a song by Michelle Millis Chappel, a local singer/songwriter. Although Michelle has a PhD in psychology from Princeton University, she walked away from a successful career as a university professor to follow her dream of becoming a musician. She also teaches workshops to help others follow their dreams, live their authentic lives and let their true selves shine through. I took a couple of classes from her a few years ago, and reconnected with her last month when I took another 1/2-day workshop from her in Santa Cruz. It was pouring rain, and I really didn't want to drive through the mountains to get there, but I am so glad I did.

Michelle and I are Facebook friends, and just this morning I clicked on a link on her home page and listened to this song. It really hit home. It truly is my time for a change as well as a time to change. I have just five days of work left. I have submitted my retirement paperwork and I am well on the way to getting the 20 (!) approvals I need as part of the electronic check-out process.

My daughter and I talked last night about all the changes we will soon be facing and the stresses they may cause. For me, major changes include retirement, moving to a new city and state, and having her home with me again. She has been attending school out of state for almost a year. She will face changes in learning to live at home once again, in being part of a family, moving to an unfamiliar city and attending a new school.

Many people fear change. They let inertia rule their lives. It certainly is easier to leave things as they are, to not rock the boat or go out on a limb or stretch oneself. They cling to the security of the known, no matter how boring or energy-sapping it may be.

I sometimes feel apprehensive about change, but I also have a history of embracing it. Change keeps me on my toes, it refreshes and challenges me. I jumped at the chance to live and work in Moscow for several months, when others refused to go. I accepted a job in Houston in large part because I was bored with my job in California and knew that I needed a change of environment. I ultimately decided I didn't like living in Houston and returned to California, but I don't regret making the initial change. I learned a lot and challenged myself to succeed at some things that were not comfortable for me to do.

When a therapist I know asked me to co-author a book with her about raising a child with trauma- and attachment-related issues, I hesitated for a short time. And then I decided to give it a shot. I love to write, and I had a lot to say. The book isn't finished yet, but I love writing, and manipulating words and thoughts to get just the right meaning is so much fun. I hope this book will help other parents of adopted kids who are struggling.

Once I started writing, I began to think of myself differently. When someone I didn't know well asked me what I do for a living, I blurted out "I'm a writer." I have no idea where that came from. But since then, I have started to think of myself as a writer, not just as someone who writes. How I view myself has changed as a result of accepting an invitation to do something I haven't done before. I have written articles and news releases, but I never thought of writing a book. I have changed simply by doing something different.

I know people who stick with the tried and true, who run from trying new things or going new places. How boring their lives must be! How can people live without at least a small sense of adventure? I love to push my capabilities. When I was younger, I loved to push myself physically, and I still do as much as I am able. I ran a marathon (26.2 miles) in hilly San Francisco, I walked 60 miles over three days to raise funds for breast cancer detection and research, and I rode my bicycle 60+ miles one day.

If we don't embrace change, if we refuse to seek variety and challenge in our lives, how can we grow as individuals? And if we don't grow, are we truly living? In my mind, when I stop changing, when I stop growing, that's the day I start to die. And I refuse to live my life like that.

Change definitely can be scary. But for me, not changing is even scarier.