Bowie sang about it, so did Tupac and Charles Bradley and many others, including my personal favorite, Langhorne Slim.
Obviously, things have changed a lot around us, in ways we can feel, but also in bigger ways that will take a while for us to register in our everyday lives or in ways we can’t yet see.
But I’ve been reminded lately too, that change is not just relegated to a life in which there is a global pandemic; it’s always there. It’s always happening and we get through it. It’s not something that can be avoided.
There are changes in which we have no say.
Like at the end of last year, my favorite podcast got a new host. When I heard this news my heart sank. I listened to old episodes they were sharing while they prepared to make the switch as if I were in a sort of mourning; I felt like I was saying goodbye, which essentially, I guess I was.
And then just this week, the guy who does the NYT Morning Briefing announced he was being reassigned. This one hurts. It feels like a trusted friend - the voice who got me through the worst of our quarantine - is abandoning me.
Of course, there are also changes we initiate, which for me are actually almost worse. Maybe because it feels like if things go badly I only have myself to blame.
Whatever the source, most of us resist it mightily.
What happened though, when I forced myself to listen to the podcast with the new host? When I decided to do the opposite of resist and face up to the change?
I loved it. She was bright and funny and engaging (even though I was a little bit rooting for her not to be to justify my initial reaction). It’s not that she was better - I’ll still miss the old host sometimes I’m sure - it was just different and still good, still enjoyable, still informative, which were all the reasons I started listening to the podcast in the first place.
In other words, things turned out just fine.
This isn’t always the case, you’re thinking to yourself, and yes, you’re right that some changes are harder than others, but if you get right down to it, how many of them actually turn out badly? The answer is likely far fewer than how many we anticipate going badly.
The truth is, we are resilient creatures for whom change is not only inevitable but is actually life-sustaining. What if our bodies and our minds never changed from birth? We can all see that would never work.
So sure, while big, quick, unexpected changes feel jarring, we really handle change all the time.
I also think, however, that it would be arrogant to say, just embrace change because it’s part of life because that is dismissive and unhelpful. We are set up to feel anxious about change because it brings uncertainty and many of us find it difficult to live in uncertainty. It wouldn’t be good to ignore this.
So what’s to be done?
The only thing we can do, I think, is to embrace the fear.
Fear is only a warning - it says to pay attention - it’s not always meant as a deterrent. It says to look before you leap and not necessarily that you shouldn’t leap at all.
And what I can tell you about fear from my own experience, is that once you acknowledge it and its role as your would-be protector, it gets easier to feel it. You become less afraid of your fear, which doesn’t necessarily make change easier, but man oh man, at least it doesn’t make it harder.
“Things could be stranger but I don't know how/ I'm going through changes now/ I've spent a lifetime trying to figure it out/ I'm going through changes now
"And I've just begun/ Under a purple sun
"There are many reasons we are what we’ve become/ I’m going through changes, rippin’ out pages/ I’m going through changes now” (Changes, Langhorne Slim)