Maybe it’s just the phase of life I’m in right now, and maybe it’s because a dear friend just recently moved to another state, but change has been on my mind. At first blush, I’m not one to enjoy change, but it’s really not a bad thing. Not when I think about it.
Change changes us. At a crossroads, two people split apart: one that went right and one that went left. If I went right, I can never be the person who went left, and I may never have an inkling of who that person might have become. But this does not have to be a contrite fact, marked down in unforgiving, harsh lines. The map is never fully drawn, either in front of us or on the road not taken, and if we are honest, it never appears much like how we thought it would when we reach the next vista or the next crossroads. When we look back, we realize that our imagination of the future rarely includes curved paths or split roads that later rejoin. Our imagination doesn’t often include steep inclines slippery slopes, or deep valleys—the journey seems rather flat at the outset, just paper on a desk. And never marked on that map are dark caves, meadows of wildflowers, or fellow companions. Those markings are left out for us to find and write in ourselves.
Change changes us. If we can think of life as a map, then it isn’t too much to see life as a long series of letters. Address them however you choose. The penmanship of our lives constantly shifts, and, if we are diligent, improves over time. We all hope that someday things will be clearer, or at least easier to read. We all hope that someday, when we come to the end, we’ll be able to write the last closing sincerely, and not with regret. Change is a gift—after all, who wants to write the same story over and over? Who wants to read the same news over and over? Change is a new bottle of ink for colors we haven’t tried yet. A new nib to replace one that’s been worn down. A new paper to start again. We can’t retrieve these letters once they’re sent, but we can keep slipping them under doors, into mailboxes, into someone’s hands. And each time we leave a letter on a bench for a stranger, each time we send words away with a stamp, we change a little.
Change changes us. If we can think of life as a pile of letters, then it won’t be too difficult to see life as an open book. Change is what makes us read. If we want to know what happens, we have to change it—we must turn the page. If we want to get through a boring or trying section, we have to change it—we must turn the page. And if we want to get to the end, we have no choice—we must turn the page and then close the book. Sometimes this change is a joy. We are absolutely caught up in the excitement of it all and we scarcely notice how many pages have gone by. Sometimes this change is painful. The content is difficult to process, or the page is turned so quickly it tears. But ultimately, we read because we want change. We want the characters inside books to grow, and if not that, then at least to be challenged. If they do not, we are disappointed. Why, then, are we so resistant to change? I think, sometimes, we forget.
We forget that we are not only given endings. We are given sunrises only after sunsets. We are healed only after we have been hurt. To have a beginning, there must be an ending, but one surely follows the other.
And we forget that the greatest beauties of our experience are transformations. Seasons turn, seeds sprout, languages evolve, relationships deepen, families grow, and, perhaps the greatest blessing of all, we change. None of us are yet who we are going to be. So keep walking on that path, filling in the map, keep sending letters, keep reading, and don’t forget.