This past week, with the new semester fast approaching and summer disappearing in the rear-view mirror, millions of college freshmen around the country prepared to undergo one of the most drastic changes of their lives. I was one of them. As I packed 19 years of my life into boxes and failing to fight back tears, (okay … sobs) as I was saying goodbye to my dog, I was struck by the enormity of the change that was about to happen. Yet, I was comforted by the fact that I was certainly not alone in feeling at least partially afraid of it. Humans, in general, aren’t always thrilled by the prospect of change. However, in a life that’s comprised almost entirely of uncertainty, change is the one thing we can always count on. It’s inevitable, and yet, for some, dealing with it can be a daunting task.
For most of my life, I’ve been among those who struggle with the process of change. But then, very recently (and at the perfect time), I realized my problem - I wasn’t viewing it as a process at all. Instead, I thought coping with change was supposed to be more like a switch. Whenever change occurred, I would expect myself to adjust to it instantly and would become frustrated and discouraged almost immediately, when of course, I couldn’t. But humans aren’t machines - we’re animals, and, biologically speaking, when dealing with new circumstances and environments, animals don’t just change overnight. Instead, they must adapt. Adaptation, though, is less of a science, and more of an art. Healthy and realistic adaptation is not like flipping a switch. It’s better compared to embarking on a journey. It takes patience, and usually involves a hill or six, but eventually, after a grace period of time has passed, and the necessary lessons have been learned, somehow, we get where we need to be.
When tasked with adapting to the unknown, it’s normal to feel uneasy. It’s normal to wonder how to do it right. But that’s the thing I’ve learned about the art of adaptation - it’s abstract. There is no “right” way to go about the process. There are no rules to follow, no guidebooks to reference. When we throw ourselves out there - or when life hurls us out there by no choice of our own - all we can do is the best we can. The result could be beautiful, or it could be a total mess. It’ll likely be a combination of the two. And that middle ground is where we find our lessons, our growth, and who we are - at least for now.