DEALING With Change

We humans have a peculiar relationship with change. We love it and we hate it. We long for it and we fear it.

There are too driving forces that work in the opposite directions, and sometimes it feels like they tear us apart. Stay where you are and enjoy the comfort of the familiar (but it might get boring and unfulfilling). Or make a bold move towards an exciting future and step out into the unknown (but it’s dark and very scary out there and can I please have my cup of tea and the woolen blanket back?). Each of us needs to find a balance between these two driving forces. How much stability and how much uncertainty one can tolerate is very individual and also changes as we grow older.

But sometimes, life just happens and we are faced with the unknown whether we asked for it or not. We get fired, divorced, lose friends, lose our possessions… Whether or not we saw them coming, major life events often leave us feeling unprepared, overwhelmed, helpless, and alone. And with no choice but to be brave.

At times like this, it may be an inspiration to know that adversity can be turned into advantage. A toxic situation can be used as an opportunity for learning and personal growth. Any suffering can become an invaluable experience and bring you to a place where you never imagined yourself being.

During my trip to France in summer 2018, I stumbled upon what seemed like a good metaphor for dealing with difficult change. Dune du Pilat is situated in the South-West of France, about an hour drive away from Bordeaux. It is the largest sand dune in Europe, about hundred meters tall and over two kilometers long. As one approaches, there is a sign warning the visitors against going all the way down to the ocean because the ascent back to the top (and the parking lot) will feel quite strenuous, and one can easily overestimate one’s endurance. But who reads those signs! It's only when you start the climb back up, you realize that they actually meant it...The appearance of the dune is deceptive. The top is right there, you can see it, but your feet get buried in sand and slide, and each step takes much more effort than you had anticipated. Before you know it, you are out of breath and suddenly this pile of sand looks like an insurmountable obstacle. But everyone else (and the car) are waiting on the other side, so you have no choice but to continue one very small step at a time.

Somewhere in the middle, there is a spot where you can’t see anyone, either those who you left behind at the bottom, or those who are already at the top. It’s just the sand, the ocean, the sky, and you.  You, alone, and the open space. There is no path. There are no boundaries. No one to tell you what the easiest way to the top is. It is chilling, and it is liberating at the same time because you get to create your own path. And eventually, even if it is not the shortest one, your own path will take you to the top and offer a breathtaking view on the ocean, the forest as far as the eye can see, and that pile of sand you have just climbed.

When you are dealing with difficult change and are only starting your “climb”, it is important to remember that even though it is a trying climb, the view from the top will be well worth it. You are not alone, even if it might seem this way. There are many others like you, who have gone or are going through the same thing. I know people who have turned severe adversity into advantage. Who saw open doors in seemingly hopeless situations, just because they dared to look. Hearing those people’s stories has added so much to my own life. But I can tell you one thing: they are not superheroes. They are ordinary people. They are ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Just like you and me. ​

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