Thursday, January 04, 2007

Embracing change

Purple Mangos was asking me today how exactly it is that I am so laid back about change and uncertainty. That is a very good question, and thinking about why is something that I've done in a fair amount of depth. Let me tell you, being able to be this way has taken me a long time.

Those of you who know me as a teacher, or even as a student, know that I'm pretty particular. I push myself really hard, I'm quite self-critical (in a good way, generally), and I like things to be just so. This drives me and others crazy sometimes, especially when I'm working in less than an ideal situation (i.e. this summer, teaching without enough supplies, support or ideas). This particularity definitely used to extend to the creation of long term plans. However, when it comes to life planning now , that particularity gets thrown out the window.

Over the past year or so, I've realized that there is no way that I can expect to plan even eight months in advance and still a) be sane, and b) not give up any of the exciting unpredictability that comes with not having a solid plan. Some of the most fascinating things that I've done have happened when I've changed my plans, or not had a solid one. Going to Japan for four months was completely unplanned, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. When I applied to teacher's college, I expected to end up staying at home, but then ended up moving to Kingston and having an amazing time at Jean Royce. And believe me, the idea of moving into residence freaked me out at first, but I dealt with it, and got better at having things change. Even falling in love with my husband was something way off the map. We had known each other since high school, and I had never thought of him as anything other than a friend. Quelle suprise when I found out what role he would play in my life!

More recently, I lived from September 2005 until April 2006 not knowing if in September 2006 I would be a teacher in Ontario, or a graduate student in Nova Scotia. That was incredibly stressful, so much so that it nearly destroyed my marriage (because it also meant choosing between living with the hubby, or doing yet another year of difficult long distance). It taught me something really important though. Change is inevitable, uncertainty is inevitable, and you just have to live with it. My theory about stress is this- it isn't helpful, so why let it affect you? Not knowing what is going to happen in the future, as much as you might want to, is only scary and hurtful if you want it to be, or if you let it be. It is also exciting if you want it to be, for you never know what wonderful things are going to happen. Living this way, I've lived in a number of fabulous cities and countries, met fascinating people, changed careers, studied at three world-class universities, and found strengths in myself that would have taken a long time to find had I had a concrete long term plan.

Which isn't to say that I don't have long term plans. I do. I know where I want to end up in the next five years, and I'm always working to make sure that I'm able to take that next step. However, I'm perfectly content let the path to my goals evolve fairly organically, because that seems to be how I end up doing what makes me happy. At the end of five years, I want to have completed my doctorate, gotten officially married, done a significant amount of travel, and bought a house. However that happens is fine, as long as it happens. And that's my philosophy!