Spring blows into summer. The school year comes to an end. Students graduate, faculty plan vacations, people are on the move. Change is in the air.
How do you react to change? Do you embrace it eagerly, seeing every dip and swerve as an exciting growth opportunity? Or do you dread it, dig in your heels, and have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the next phase? Most of us land somewhere in between these extremes, and may react differently at different times or in diverse situations. But we all experience change every day.
What’s that you say? Nothing ever changes in your life? You couldn’t be more wrong. You may think all is quiet on the home front, but you yourself are changing whether you know it or not. You are literally not the same person you were yesterday.
Certain body parts are more obviously impermanent than others, like hair and nails. You have probably heard that your skin sloughs off and regrows. But did you know that most of the rest of your body also renews itself on a regular basis?
The lenses in your eyes, the eggs in your ovaries, and some of your brain cells are permanent – well, as permanent as you are. Everything else is but a passing fancy.
Your body changes in other ways too. Your heart beats fast when you move or get scared. Your breathing slows when you sleep. From hungry to fed, thirsty to slaked, tired to rested, you experience different states throughout the day. Your hormone levels fluctuate. Your body repairs injury. anger, sorrow, love and joy flow through you as the chemistry shifts in your brain.
So in case you are dreading whatever change is coming up for you, maybe you can take some comfort in knowing that you are already an expert. You have held it together through numerous livers and several million red blood cells. What is a little college graduation or a move compared with that?
Heraclitus also said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” If you can forgive his sexist choice of words, this is a very interesting statement to ponder.
Change happens to you and to people around you whether you like it or not. But it can also come from you, by deliberate choice. I met a military veteran the other day who told me the story of his choice to change himself from an emotionally reactive, medication-dependent person to a consciously calm, substance-free student and father. This was not a rapid transformation, nor an easy one, but with a lot of work over time he has made it happen.
Psychologist Viktor Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.” Mahatma Ghandi is well-known for this one: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Barack Obama stated, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
In this season of change, what modification do you want to make? I challenge you to think of one. It might be something little, like rearranging the furniture or wearing your hair a new way. Or you might want to make a lifestyle adjustment related to your health, like a new exercise plan or a dietary improvement. Perhaps you have something really big in mind, like the veteran I met, a major life transformation that starts, after all, with a single step.
Whatever you choose, the act of making a conscious choice to change something, anything, gives you power. Try it and you’ll see. Deliberate life steps foster growth and inner strength. You are the author of your own life, the expert in your own skin, the one you have been waiting for.
Have a great summer.
Dr. Peggy Spencer is a physician at Student Health and Counseling. She is also co-author of the book “50 Ways to Leave Your 40s.” Email your questions directly to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions will be considered, and all questioners will remain anonymous.