“Everything is always changing,” is what I heard from my six-year-old son in the backseat as he scarfed down Pringles chips on the way to some practice on some field near our home. He was just informed that this summer he will have more chores added to his tiny list, which includes such difficult tasks as “make your bed” and “take your plate to the sink.” Life is hard for him, but he is right about one thing... it is changing, always.
It is called the one constant in life, and can be described in terms ranging from terrifying to exhilarating. If I had to come up with a resume for my life, adapting would rank up at the top of my skill set. Having lived in seven different states and in Europe for a time, my constant companion has been change. It is both a thorn in my side and the ultimate motivation.
One of my favorite quotes regarding change comes from the writer, Hugh Prather, who said, “Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.” I think parents can appreciate this statement as we watch our kids go through all the many stages in life. Just when my youngest son started sleeping though the night (at four years old!) and behaving like something other than a complete savage, my oldest hits puberty with a vengeance. His voice is cracking as he endlessly debates with me on subjects ranging from screen time to who will get traded to our favorite soccer team to homework (apparently he does not actually believe that I attended school or have, in fact, ever learned anything in the forty-plus years I have been alive). “You don’t know what you are talking about,” was such a common refrain in our house for awhile, I considered it as a possible quote to use on my headstone when I made the Ultimate Change.
As for me, I prefer Harrison Ford’s view of change. He may not have loved his Han Solo character, but this quote is something I can see the eternally pragmatic Corellian smuggler and Kessel Run pilot embracing. “We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.” Old Han needed a lot of second chances, and usually made good use of them, which is what I fully intend to do with my second chance.
You see, thirteen years ago I took what was supposed to be a short hiatus from my writing career. At the time I was fully entrenched in a successful job in publications and marketing for a university in the southwest, with dreams of writing the Great American Novel one day down the road. I loved my job, my colleagues and the chance to be creative everyday.
When our first son was born, my active-duty U.S. Army husband, received an assignment to Germany, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we both knew would change our lives. And it did.
During our three years there, we traveled Europe with our young son in tow and attempted to see as much of the continent as we could afford. Walking Prague’s Charles Bridge and driving through the Tuscan countryside will certainly take the sting out of leaving a job behind. Unable to easily work in Germany, I immersed myself in German life, joining a local mother’s group in our village, touring local markets and castles with my toddler and learning the language.
By the time we returned to the United States, my hiatus from work continued with news of a 13-month deployment for my husband to a war zone and all the anxiety that came with it. After the deployment, a new baby and several more moves postponed my return to a career further. Before I knew it, more than a decade had gone by and technology had exploded in my absence.
When I first became a writer in the mid 1990s, the Internet was still a toddler and the printing press that rumbled in the bowels of the Virginia newspaper building where I worked was just changing over to a digital prepress process that allowed us to put down our markup pencils and Exacto blades and leave pasteup behind. Facebook was years off and if someone said twitter, they were probably talking about a bird or a woman who spoke in a high-pitched voice.
The last decade has brought with it blogging, social networking and a connection to the world that is equal parts wonderful and horrible. And while my desire to write has always been there, and the ability to do so has opened up more than ever with each new year and each new technological advance, a large obstacle firmly planted itself in the way. Fear.
Fear of failure, fear of not being able to write again, fear of new technology and being left behind as it advances.
Ironically, one of my favorite songs is all about fear. When “Drive” by Incubus was first released I was living in El Paso, writing for another university and discovering my new home in the southwest. It was our second military move and I was becoming quite accustomed to change, and on a smaller scale, fear. Fear of a new place, meeting new people and starting another new job are all things any military spouse carry with them like baggage as they make a life somewhere new every few years. The song’s words, “Sometimes I feel the fear of the uncertainty stinging clear, and I can't help but ask myself how much I'll let the fear take the wheel and steer,” held a lot of meaning for me as I found myself 1,000 miles from any family or friends in a city on the border with Mexico. Within the first year I had made friends, settled into a challenging job and began the process of living in my new city. I would soon do it again in another country and again and again. I just could not seem to escape my old friend, Change.
A few weeks ago, my oldest son was struggling with fear. He is a teenager now and his whole world is change, and that can be very scary. I looked up my trusty song that had gotten me through many a challenge, and read him some of the lyrics. A funny thing happened. Not only did it help him, it also helped me to finally push past the fear that had been holding my writing career in place. Words have always been very important to me, and as I read him the lyrics, I really heard the words for the first time in awhile.
“Lately I'm beginning to find that I should be the one behind the wheel. Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there with open arms and open eyes.”
Change and fear go together like peas and carrots (neither of which I like), but if you are breathing and walking around in the world, you will experience them on a regular basis. Instead of letting them hold me back, I choose to clasp hands with both and move forward to restart the career I loved so very much. I have a lot of catching up to do with technology, but the craft of writing is an old friend that never really changes. As one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain, once said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”
So here with this first blog, I begin to cross out the wrong words, embrace change and take a second chance. At 43-years old, starting over is both terrifying and exhilarating, but I will be there with open arms and open eyes.