Today my 18-year-old daughter Laura left for New York City to begin college, where she joins my 22-year-old son, who is also working and attending a university there.
I am very proud of my children, but, perhaps not surprisingly, I feel sad. I have had other changes in my life of late; most notably my time working at HarperCollins is coming to a close. It’s too much change. But there is always too much change.
Change is ongoing, ever present, and perhaps constant, but at this particular moment in my life it is crystal clear that one chapter is ending and another beginning—a realization that is exhilarating, daunting, energizing, and exhausting, all at once. Failure and the possibility of losing much that we have worked so hard for are very real prospects, especially in a time fraught with so much hazard and difficulty. These days the costs of health insurance or of not having health insurance are enough to cause a person to despair. Therefore I have determined that failure is unacceptable. I just hope I’m right about that.
Change and decay in all around I see, says the old hymn. That poet found hope in a God who transcends change, while others find it in an eternal cycle of death and renewal, destruction and creation.
Perhaps there is something eternal to be garnered from our lives, but with or without meaning, we all know there are only so many chapters. Caught up, as I am, in the change, I don’t find it so easy to pivot away from what is being lost. My heart aches for that which is decaying, that which is dying. Yes, the promise of the future is exhilarating; yes, I am grateful for the gift of each day. The excitement of my children embarking on their adult lives is one of my greatest joys.
But I am afraid, too: afraid of the possibility that there may be more bad news tomorrow, and even more that there is no good news to come.
Such fears have to be tamed. Fear is a second class motivator and does not lend itself to reasoned action. But fear of change that threatens our way of life, our livelihood, the well being of our loved ones, or our health is not so easily tamed. It comes on like a storm—wind howling, waters rising, the electricity out, the bridge impassable—and steals away our confidence. If you haven’t been in that storm—if you haven’t been broke, hungry, sick, or felt the cold breath of death on your neck—then it is easy to say that change is rebirth, a second chance. Not always. Change is not inherently good or bad, and a person who claims that it is always leads to something better is being naïve or self-serving. Sometimes change is bad. Sometimes it is simply the end.
Change is inevitable and we must always expect it and do our best to be prepared for its disruptions. Whether these are beneficial, neutral, or destructive, we must live through them, and help those around us to as we do. We are, after all, in this together. Enjoy what we have, for soon it will be gone. As change comes, may the good be transcendent, and may we find in moments of doubt the seed of our revitalization.