Our lives are in a constant state of change. At certain times we are more aware of this than others. Some people seek change, while others avoid it. I would suspect most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes. Regardless, change almost always involves mixed emotions. In a world of sound bytes, 140-character status updates, and the busy fly-by “How are you?” it can be difficult to find validation in acknowledging those emotions, much less make space to feel them.
Change often involves loss to be mourned as well as something new to be celebrated (sometimes one is more dominant than the other, but both still exist). Both invite a response in us that is natural and human. Embracing those responses is not only healthy, but important in fully engaging with life and the change that is part of it.
Growing up as the fifth of six children, I lived a lot of change at an age younger than many typically experience it. I have always developed deep and strong attachments, so I struggle with change anyway, but being younger also made it difficult. Whether it was a sibling going to college, a move to a new country, or a sibling getting married, change hurt. But being one of the youngest and being in a big family where forward motion was a necessary part of life, it didn’t feel like it was ok for me to feel that way. I’m not blaming anyone here, it’s just how it was, and my tendency to internalize didn’t help matters. But not addressing the hurt just made it more painful, and it kept me from recognizing and enjoying the positives that changes also brought.
This is a time of year that involves changes for many people. It’s the beginning of the school year, so anyone whose schedule depends on or is affected by the school year is probably experiencing some kind of change. For me, it always means a new year, but this year, it’s especially different, because I am switching grades. After six years of teaching fourth grade, I’m teaching first grade. I have always wanted to teach a younger grade, and it was time for a change, so I asked to change when the opportunity arose. For someone who struggles with change, it’s a really big deal for me to invite–even petition for–such a redirection. But I’ve learned a lot about not letting the parts of change that might hurt or be hard keep me from something different that will also be a cause for celebration.
What I’m trying to say here is what I’ve said on this blog many different times in many ways: life is rarely an either/or situation, it’s more of a both/and. Change brings mourning and celebration, and we need to let ourselves (and others) feel both.