Change can be overwhelming, and I must choose resilience when it washes over me.
The story of Change is Natural has been told all my life. I’ve watched puppies mature into dogs; tadpoles turn into frogs; girls grow up to be women; seedlings bloom into flowers; caterpillars turn into butterflies. Every moment, living things are growing, evolving, maturing, dying, reproducing. Change is The Way.
So why is change so hard?
For humans, I mean. Metamorphosis isn’t painful for the caterpillar or for the butterfly (says the Internet). Caterpillars just matter-of-factly digest themselves into soup and then reassemble themselves into their new, winged forms. As far as we know, they aren’t hurt, uncomfortable, afraid, angry, apprehensive or even vaguely annoyed at having to pee ONE LAST TIME before sealing up the cocoon. They just do it.
The story of my Change is Natural card begins in a former workplace, when I had just learned that two hundred people—an entire business group, mostly at my site—had been laid off. It was the beginning of the hiring/firing cycles that many large companies started in the 1990s as they struggled to match staffing with strategy. Changes in the form of layoffs took on a seasonal quality, aligning with the fiscal quarters as predictably as, well, caterpillars becoming butterflies.
In a way, this card should be called Resilience instead. Over the years at this company, through many more cycles of change of all kinds, I learned that I was both more and less resilient than I thought. I became more resilient because I worked at it: I got change training, took pre-emptive measures to protect my finances and career, and sought to find meaning, opportunities and positivity in change. But in some ways I became less resilient: I was more sad or afraid or numb about change than I “should” have been; changes seemed to bother me long after others had moved on; and I became more risk-averse in my personal life and finances.
In my opinion, we do ourselves a disservice by romanticizing or anthropomorphizing the caterpillar’s experience. We may feel blindly compelled to change just like the caterpillar does, but our minds and our feelings and our past experiences get in the way. Sometimes it’s freaking uncomfortable, and sometimes it freaking hurts. Humans just aren’t going to metamorphosize as quickly and fearlessly and flawlessly and easily as caterpillars do. I don’t, and I’ve stopped expecting myself to.
But I do expect myself to do this: when change inevitably occurs, I remind myself I have a choice: will I be more resilient or less resilient?
Change is natural. It is The Way. It just is. It’s inevitable. It’s life itself. It will happen. So I must find ways to make my peace with it, and stay out of my own way, and let change happen—and sometimes make change happen, when I can. If I choose resilience, yet honor my uncomfortable feelings, The Way may still be painful at times—but turning into a butterfly will be totally worth it.