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Word of the Month: Change    

Word of the Month: Change

At The Local Optimist, we’re kicking off the end of summer with a focus on one of life’s most common experiences: change. At every age and phase, change is an inevitable part of our lives, propelling us forward and helping us grow even when it's uncomfortable or difficult to comprehend. Since everyone has different tools for navigating life’s transformations, we got our team together to chat about some of the most impactful life changes they’ve experienced and how certain perspective shifts have helped them accept and appreciate those changes over time. Read the full convo, below.

Jessica Schiffer (managing editor):

Change is something we’re constantly experiencing, but this August feels like a particularly good time to explore it: we’re coming off a year-and-a-half of one of the craziest changes any of us will ever experience (living in a life-disrupting pandemic) and many people are gearing up to return to school and offices full-time for the first time since Covid hit. For those of us who aren’t in those boats, the experience of the past year has still had us looking at our lives under a microscope and questioning where things could be better or done differently than before. There’s no going back to “normal,” or what was, which inherently means that we’re deep in a state of change. 

I think about change a lot because I’m not “good” at it: I love routine and feeling in control, going with the flow does not come naturally to me (yes, I had an early-pandemic panic as a result). I’m curious Hallie, how do you handle change? Are you like me, where you find it really uncomfortable, or are you the chill, carefree type that I aspire to be?

Hallie Sheinbaum (project manager):

I'd say I'm somewhere in between. Sometimes change really excites me, and other times it actually frightens me. I think I am the type of person who needs change to stay stimulated. While I do love a good routine, I can't do the same thing every day, or else I might start pulling my hair out! I would definitely say I am more of a go-with-the-flow type of girl. I think maybe part of me will panic a little inside when experiencing some changes, probably because I have to learn to let go of control, but in the long run, I am comfortable with change.

Like you, Jessica, I think I also had an early pandemic panic, but then I was amazed by how quickly living the quarantine life became my norm. And, everything that used to be my "norm" felt unimaginable. As you said,  change is inevitable, and we are constantly experiencing it. I think the key to handling it is having a positive attitude and embracing it. Now I'm curious! Since you said you're not "good" at change, how do you handle changes?

Jessica Schiffer:

I love that. When I'm going through changes that freak me out a bit, I try to remind myself of two things: that change is necessary for growth and that (in most cases) I've experienced much bigger changes before and survived those, so I'll be okay. Despite my love of routine, it gets boring and doesn't always land me where I want to be, so I focus on the growth aspect of change to help motivate me and remind me that the rewards outweigh the risks. When I'm wondering how I'll make it through a more massive change, I think of changes I've been through that were far more difficult, like my dad dying unexpectedly when I was 24. I try to adopt the attitude of: if you made it through that, you can definitely make it through this. It's a bit fake-it-til-you-make-it, but it seems to help.

Meadowlark Monaghan (mental health lead):

As a fellow lost-my-dad-unexpectedly (I was 17), I REALLY hear you on that one. Ever since then, my approach has been "Well, the worst that I thought could happen did. I not only survived it, I'm doing well. I can handle anything now!" That's far easier said than done but reflecting on past scenarios does help me significantly when gearing up for upcoming changes or unknowns. 

I'm definitely a go-with-the-flow kind of gal. What I'm not good at are the in-betweens or moments floating around in limbo before you know which way a change is going to go. Once I know what change needs to happen, I'll fully commit and surrender to the dance. But at the same time, I am nothing without [the predictability of] my morning routine, it is integral to my mental health. Okay my Libra is showing right now, I like both.

JS:

Haha, I think they call that balance? But I wouldn't know ;) I hate those in-between times, too, where you're not certain what's coming next — it gives me way too much space to imagine worst-case scenarios. Have either of you gone through a change that you weren't happy about or thought was negative at the time, but then realized in hindsight that it was good for you?

HS:

DEFINITELY! I had to leave college and go home my freshman year on a leave of absence. At the time, I was not happy with this decision. I felt lost. I had no clue what my plan was, and I didn’t want to leave my friends and lose my independence. But it actually ended up being sooooo good for me. I couldn’t properly grow or flourish at that time in a college environment. A lot more doors opened after shutting that one. I now see it as a hidden blessing. 

MM:

Oh that's a good one Hallie! My transfer experience in college was similar. Also, Jess, how funny is it that the first answer to your question I thought of was every breakup I have ever been through lol.

My honest answer though is when I started taking my anti-anxiety medication. At first, even being in the field, I had all these negative thoughts around "needing" the medication and what that meant for myself. But quickly I realized that all they changed was bringing my baseline energy levels back up to what I knew they should be — they gave me the energy to do allllll the other work that's required of me as a person trying to grow - whether that be therapy, inner child work, or just having the motivation to go on a walk today - the medication didn't "fix" or "change" me. It gave me my energy and ability back to do the work for the changes I want to see 

JS:

That makes three of us on the college experience (hmmm... it's almost like we shouldn't be expected to know exactly what's right for us at 18!) A scary change for me that actually turned out for the best was when I quit my first job after being sold a pipe-dream about what my new job was going to entail, only to find out that it was a chaotic mess I didn’t want to be a part of. I was so angry at myself for not doing more due diligence and for leaving my former, decent job behind, but the situation forced me to reckon with what I actually wanted to do with my career. The truth was, that first job was never really it, and while I could have stayed on and been complacent, I took a risk. It didn’t pay off instantly, but within a year, I had started freelancing and doing the kind of writing work I truly wanted to do, and it really set me up for where I am today. If I had never quit my job and had that year-long panic, there’s a good chance I’d still be doing work I wasn’t proud of almost 8 years later.

I guess the moral of this convo is that even when a change undeniably sucks, like losing a parent, there’s always something you can gain from it, even if it's just showing you exactly how strong you are.

MM:

I love that anecdote Jess because it's so true for so many people and I think that social media has given folks (myself included!) a warped perspective on how "quickly" careers come together — even if your change is "a dark night of the soul" there's only up from there.

The only constant is change so having our own individual toolbox to help get us through changes with grace and empathy for ourselves is all we can do to prepare for it!

Wow, I'm so excited to see where this month goes — I'm sure we'll change our perspectives by the end of it.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.