It’s been said that the only thing you can count on is change. Paradoxically, change is something that most of us find extremely difficult. I’ve concluded that the problem is not in the actual change, but the fear of the unknown that accompanies an impending change.
Recently, I’ve seen examples of this fear that have left me shaking my head in dismay. And I’ve also seen examples of how this fear has been overcome that has left me shaking my head in wonder.
In a previous life, I was a harried, studio-dwelling TV executive. Paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision, I rarely made any decisions. After all, to act would precipitate change and change would set off a chain reaction of second-guessing, management stressing and potential down dressing. While nobody was happy with the status quo, the fear of change was greater. Change could mean a shift in resources, responsibilities and requirements.
Last week, I found myself standing in that same studio talking to my former boss. I hadn’t intended on doing so, it was just something that happened. I had gone to see an old colleague for lunch, but the demands of production pre-empted our mid-day dining experience.
It was 1 p.m. on a Friday and my old boss was already on his way home. It seemed that in the past couple of years things had changed dramatically for him. He now left work every day at 2 p.m., picked up his kids from school, threw on a load of laundry and made dinner. His wife and business partner still kept the long hours, often arriving home around 8 p.m., but life was much better. Business was good, but home life was even better.
“I still get stressed,” he said. “But it’s about different stuff.”
For an hour, we played catch up, exchanged industry observations and the hippie philosophy that had bonded us in the first place. The industry remained one of manufactured emergencies, decreasing margins and accepted hysteria. Happiness was still dependent on falling on your bliss. After years of talking the talk, he was doing the walk and it looked good on him.
Buoyed by this unexpected, positive story I made my way to the Eastside to finish off the business of my day. On a whim, I turned off a main thoroughfare and into a neighbourhood where an old friend lived.
After seeing each other two or three times a week, I had seen him maybe twice in the past six years, our friendship the casualty of a messy breakup. I told myself that I was just going to drive by and have a look at the garden, a horticultural wonder spectacular in its diversity and tenacity. I was not disappointed. With the fall colours descending, the garden was nothing short of amazing, an array of Eucalyptus, bamboo, Echinacea and dozens of other non-indigenous plants growing side by side.
I noticed the front door was open, a familiar sign that my fresh air-loving friend was home.
He seemed only mildly surprised by my arrival, immersed as he was in the renovation of his kitchen and his bathroom. He was playing beat the clock, trying to get the drywall ready for the mud man who was due within the hour.
Declining his offer of a beer, I was surprised to see him pop off the cap of a Corona for himself.
“When did you start that?” I asked, pointing to his beer.
In the 20 years of our acquaintance, I had known him to be a non-drinker, having quit the day he woke up in a pool of his own piss.
“About five years ago… I realized I could drink without having to keep up with my mom.”
He went on to describe how he had organized a reunion with his mom and his brothers, including the one who hadn’t spoken to her in 15 years. It had gone well.
While I was pleased about his family situation, I found his renovation to be even more exciting. After years of kvetching about the kitchen in his 100-year-old house, he had done what few us would dare to do. He had torn down walls, removed doors and replaced windows, tackling the great unknown to create something new.
Likewise, my old boss, realizing that the business he was in probably wouldn’t change, decided that he would.
I drove away realizing that in accepting change we are perhaps welcoming something far more important — growth.