I have discovered, much to my surprise, that there is an up-side to getting older. Throughout my life, I’ve had to re-invent myself both personally and professionally a number of times, and while I objected in the moment, I now see the benefits. The transitions were rarely easy – some were unthinkable, and I hope you never have to experience them – but after each one, I knew I was a stronger, wiser person, and I value each new aspect of myself that emerged from the experience. It feels good to be old enough to see a purpose behind (and benefits of ) these transitions, but the experiences themselves were difficult, and I’m pretty sure I went into each one kicking and screaming. They certainly weren’t ones I would have chosen for myself, but each – filled with the threat of personal harm – held the seed of its own opposite and presented unbelievable opportunities for my own growth. So, the question is this: would I trade the negative experiences for the growth that resulted from them? Truthfully, I don’t know. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t have a choice! Here is what I do know; had they not happened, I would not be where I am today, and I happen to love the life I now lead. Despite this, I am changing my life again. I just retired! Yep. Voluntarily cut my position in the school district and threw my salary back into the big pot so others can stay. Another transition, yes, but after a lifetime of them, I can honestly say I am without fear. Another new facet of me is waiting to be sculpted into being, and I look forward to seeing what emerges.
I know. Scary things are happening all around us. The world market just tumbled, and our nation’s economy seems to be forever on the brink of disaster. Unemployment has left few families untouched. In my area, we are plagued with drought and wildfires and are using phrases like “heat emergency” on a daily basis. In talking with some of you this past week, you shared with me that you are concerned about the bank foreclosing on your home, you took money from your retirement account to pay for your child’s medical bills, you worry because your grandchildren do not have the same advantages your own children enjoyed, and you’re terrified you will have to work forever. Things are not turning out the way you hoped!
I have no easy answers for why things are the way they are: I will leave those solutions to brains larger than my own. I will tell you what I have learned, though. Life offers up a never-ending demand for change, and while you may get thrown into your transitions kicking and screaming, I challenge you to try to reduce that way of reacting as much as you can and simply accept as many as possible. Be firm in the knowledge that good things come from bad situations. When the dust settles around you and you look back on experiences you once considered negative, I’d like to know what you think. Were you able to take negative situations and milk them for all the positives they were worth? Do you still consider people who hurt you your enemy, or are they the people responsible for spurring you on to greatness (or better-ness, at least)?
I am attaching a slide show tribute called “When Ike Gives you Stumps” I made especially for you with photos I took in Galveston. After Hurricane Ike ravaged homes and lives there, at least two artists looked at ruin and saw possibilities. From the trunks of downed oak trees, these men carved statues in the yards of the island’s residents and enabled the people to thumb their noses at the storm and say, “We may be down, but we will not be beat. We may not have oaks, but what we do have is ART!” Galveston has re-invented itself in ways it never wanted to, but the new life and spirit there is a beautiful thing to behold. I hope you enjoy the slide show. I hope you choose to accept the challenge I placed before you. To do so will demand a great deal from you. It will also be one of the best gifts you ever give yourself.
All my best today and always.