I’ve been thinking a lot about how we experience change in our lives.
It’s not really surprising that it’s been on my mind after this past year. No matter how much we thought we might be insulated from change, I don’t know a single person who didn’t have their lives impacted in some way by the events of this past year and a half. Sadly, most of that change has been negative – full of loss – jobs, homes, loved ones, trust, hope, even our way of life. Far too many of us who managed to survive a severe bout of the pandemic’s virus lost our own health with brutal and incomplete recoveries.
One day we had a certain life and then the next, it all changed. A simple trip to a grocery store – when we finally could get back out and go to a store – became a traumatic, stressful experience for many with health risks. The bottom fell out of complete industries, and far too many of us found ourselves without income, without purpose, without human contact – adrift, locked in, isolated.
The past eighteen months made change almost synonymous with loss. Even as we see hope once again on the horizon as vaccines make it possible to get back to some form of normalcy, for far too many of us, our new normal will be without people we love, without jobs we enjoyed, forever robbed of the sense of safety and autonomy we enjoyed before the pandemic.
But even as the pandemic delivered massive negative change, we often face anxiety and stress when presented with positive change – a new opportunity, a new relationship, a new experience. Change is hard, even when either option is good.
For myself, the pandemic both took away from me and gave me space to grieve, recover and look towards the future – all within the privacy of my own little cocoon. I lost loved ones, like so many of us did, and I lost my way of life, my purpose. The startup I launched eleven years ago was poised to be acquired and grow within an industry where we had already made an impact and created a good reputation. In fact, the last required approvals were secured for the pending acquisition during the first week of March in 2020.
The acquisition completely evaporated by the third week of March. Instead of being poised for growth, there was no hope of recovering or surviving the pandemic. We fought to keep our services up and running on fumes so that our last client (also our first back in 2010), the City of Albuquerque, could continue to use the transit and city-wide mobile apps we developed and supported for them. With the pandemic closing down so many forms of in-person communication, the apps took on new importance for communication with closed government offices. We worked with what little resources we had – and volunteered our time – to keep the apps functioning within the severe limits we were facing.
Tomorrow, I sign the paperwork that our lawyer will file and officially kill my startup, and with it, my dream of building a better, more equitable future for cities, and even killing in many ways my own livelihood and identity for over a decade.
As I began 2021, it felt like my personal life was filled with upheaval and loss, and my professional life was in shambles.
But when I finally took a breath and decided it was time to face the changes I’d been dealt – and face them head-on, I was finally in a place where I could begin to imagine what might come next. And when I was finally ready to explore what might be possible, a beautiful thing happened. Friends reached out and offered kind words. Some offered far more than kind words – they offered help and even work. I will forever be grateful to those – and you know who you are – who stood in the darkness of that moment with me, right beside me, and helped me face it and find a way to move forward.
As the new year started, I also started applying for new positions. Some were moonshot roles that I would love but knew I likely wouldn’t be considered for. Some were jobs that looked like a good fit. And others were just to keep active, to begin being more productive. I’ve received more rejections that I can count – sending a huge shout out to corporations and startups that have a process in place to at least tell people they can move on and stop waiting to hear. I honestly received more invitations to move on to the next step of interviews than I thought I would, and a few of those opportunities appear to be moving closer to offers to join new teams and help build towards new visions and new goals.
And so now I am yet again on the precipice of more change, but this change is good. This has been the opportunity to redefine myself, to really take inventory to decide what makes me happy and where I thrive. And yet, as I consider these new opportunities, there is also apprehension, anxiety and even a tinge of fear. What if it’s not a good fit? What if I find I’m in over my head? What if they don’t like working with me? What if I don’t like working with them? The worry can turn an exciting opportunity into anxiety and dread if we don’t fight the what-ifs that threaten to kill the joy of what should be an exciting moment.
But I understand the worry and am working through it and embracing the process, because change is hard, even when all of the decisions are good options.