The Only Constant

The Only Constant
Photo by Beth Macdonald / Unsplash

Before diving in, a bit of housekeeping: a friend shared that the email bounced when he tried replying to my last note. That should be fixed now and replies should go through. Thanks, David!

Since writing my last post, I've caught myself pining for Blackberries (the phone, not the fruit). Every time I mis-type something on my phone's digital keyboard, I think about how I could type error-free without looking on a Blackberry.

Of course, this bout of nostalgia doesn't include that Blackberries were only ever good for calls, texts, and emails, and I don't think about the freezing issues they had (pulling the battery happened way too often). Modern phones can now do calls, texts, and emails, AND they can take the place of a standalone GPS unit, a music and podcast player, a digital camera, an e-reader, and even a TV.

The same rose-colored nostalgia happens in other areas of life:

  • Remember how great things were before kids? (Or even more insidious: remember how great things were with my ex?)
  • It was so much easier before the kids could walk
  • I miss renting. All you had to do was call the landlord to fix a problem
  • Zipping in and out of traffic in my sedan was so much more fun than driving this family hauler
  • Taking on this new challenge was a bad idea – my old job was so much easier

I’m sure there are a hundred other circumstances where we lament what used to be. But we rarely remember the bad parts when looking back at what used to be: how we felt like our lives were missing something before we had kids. The sleepless nights with young kids. The pain of rent increases. The repair bills on the old car. How bored and listless we felt when we were comfortable in the last job.

On the contrary, we often see things like: "Be the change you wish to see in the world," "The only constant is change," or "Adapt or die." They're most often seen on motivational posters, LinkedIn status updates, and tweets with the ripped Jeff Bezos meme, respectively.

There is a fundamental tension between these adages and our resistance to change. From the smallest cell to the biggest solar system, everything is growing, multiplying, adapting, changing, and dying every single day. If everything from a single cell's mitochondria to the Milky Way changes daily, why do we think we're special?

I think we're afraid of the unknown and scared of what we can't control. There's certainty in the past because it's already happened. But everything beyond this moment, from geopolitical uncertainty to whether there will be an open table when we go our for dinner, is unknown. We're uncomfortable because we don't know what's coming our way.

Whenever I think of change, I think of this image from Wait But Why:

We're comfortable with the green line behind us. And we're nervous about all of those green lines ahead of us – one of them may be us as a millionaire in perfect health. Another may be us divorced and struggling to pay medical bills.

Fear of change is way too familiar to me. I'm something of a recovering control freak. Even though I've taken some calculated risks in life, I like having as much info as possible when I take a leap, and man do I like to be able to control my environment. (As an aside, I've learned that the more control I try to exert, the worse things end up.)

A better approach I've found? Embrace change. Realize that if everything from cells to solar systems is constantly changing, change is coming no matter what. Enjoy the journey and worry a little less about the destination.

And most importantly, if you value something today, be grateful that you have it. You don't know how much longer it will last. I wish I would've appreciated typing on a Blackberry keyboard when I could.

Typing on glass is just ducking annoying.