Approaches to change

I went to a college where I took a new class every 3 1/2 weeks.

I did a traveling study abroad program where we traveled to a new city and country roughly every two weeks.

After college, I did an AmeriCorps program where I worked on a team and changed projects (and locations, including places in the Northeast and the Gulf Coast) every 6-8 weeks.  In 10 months, I spent time in 5+ locations.

From ages 28-31, I lived in a communal home where regularly switching rooms – without much choice in the matter – was commonplace.  A lot of the activities in the house – which were based on a specific recovery and leadership model – reinforced accepting change, transitions, and transformation.

All these situations involved consistent change.

Somewhere along the way, I think I adopted the philosophy that adapting to situations would help me build resilience.  I chose activities and programs that I believed would help my personal growth.  When I first heard about my first AmeriCorps program, the representative at the job fair made the comment, “You have to learn to be flexible.”  I don’t know if I really took this in, or perhaps I believed that the program would help me grow and learn to adapt.  I do think that for some people, approaching situations this way might help increase their capacity to adapt and be flexible.  I think this is less true for me.

Two weeks ago, I sat in my occupational therapist’s new office with a weighted blanket on my lap, taking a few minutes to allow my nervous system to recover from the unfamiliar drive.  It was my first time driving to the area by myself.  My OT said she wanted to acknowledge how much effort and energy it had taken for me to get there – that doing something new and different is generally more challenging for people with sensory issues.

Looking back, I realize that transitions have generally been difficult for me, even from one activity to another, let alone a major life change.  I don’t ease into something new.  It takes time.  I realize now that I have more sensory tools, it takes conscious effort to self-regulate and adapt on my own terms.

I did all those things that involved so much change and newness, and in many cases, I thought it was in my best interest.  And while I can certainly say I learned from my experiences and have some positive take aways, there’s another part of me that’s like, damn, that was exhausting.  Those experiences definitely took an energetic toll on my nervous system.

Now, I know to prepare myself for change, to allow myself to go more slowly, and I’m more accepting when I feel drained after doing a new activity.

Now, I’m learning the street layouts of a new city before I move there in the fall; last week I spent time there with my fiancé so I can get acquainted with what our life there might be like.  I realize there’s a balance in not over-anticipating how this upcoming large shift in my life may unfold, but I can take steps.

I recognize that change is a part of life.  I don’t need to condemn or criticize myself for how I react to it.  When I consciously release any judgment on how I approach change, and keep sensory factors in mind, perhaps I’ll transition a little easier next time.

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