All [...] things must come to an end. How to deal with change?
July 6, 2020 4:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm having a hard time making a decision (snowflakes within). I don't exactly need help with the decision itself, but I need help with the idea of accepting change -- and the unknowns and missed potential that come with change. I'm anxious of the idea that I might regret this. How do I accept or embrace the idea of change, when I can foresee missing things?

For years I've been contemplating a job change, feeling growing levels of desperation and unhappiness, and something has finally come up. The new role seems *mostly* to be a good fit (or at least a good place to learn from and grow) and it's also near my mother. But now that I'm faced with the more immediate, permanent need to make a decision... I'm pausing and reflecting on my current situation vs the new situation, and am uneasy with the idea of change. I'm thinking about places and things in my current job/company and current state I live in (Maine), that I would probably miss. Even fairly mundane things, like a pretty trail near my apartment, or the weather, or the level of traffic, the comparatively liberal nature of this state, the scenery, my peaceful apartment. I've even started visiting said trail almost every day now.

I'm thinking of these positive things, things that I've taken mostly taken for granted or openly relished, and comparing them to the possible uncertainties of the new role, and the ever growing list of unfavorable things in the new state (er, Florida). (Yes, this job would require a move at some point, which gives me more pause and I'm trying to address, but I would have been having the same doubts even in non-corona times.) Suddenly the things I didn't enjoy about here (mainly, the impossibleness of work, but also living alone here, and never quite feeling at home), are moving more to the periphery.

I keep thinking about this song lyric about a man foreseeing his last days and asking himself, "Will money pay for all the days I lived awake, but half asleep?". I'm sad that I've not taken advantage of all I could have over the years I had here, but am not sure to be honest, what I would have changed knowing what I know now.

I haven't had a whole lot of change in my adult life, and I've been cautious when I have had to make decisions. In the past, I've advised to others and always thought to myself: "change is a good thing, because it improves your perspective." But now when faced with my own major life change, I'm just nervous.

How do I accept or embrace the idea of change, when I can foresee missing things?
posted by watrlily to Human Relations (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, this is less of advice and more of a message of solidarity. I've been where you are and now I'm on the other side. I regret nothing about my decision: in fact, with some distance I can appreciate the good things from that time but I don't miss anything about it either. My life is much more complicated now and it's not all wine and roses but omg it's so much better and I'm so much happier. I thought I'd regret not having done it earlier but I realize I did it at exactly the right time. I feel so lucky to have this new perspective and these new opportunities.

Being nervous is understandable and OK! Thinking "what if things go wrong" is inevitable but also remember to think "what if things go right?!" Change is scary but leads us to good things. And if you aren't super happy with these changes after a year or so, you can change things again in big or small ways. If you need more time, take the time! But if you're ready but just worried, please proceed. I'm so excited for you!!
posted by smorgasbord at 4:58 AM on July 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: So. Without reference to your specific situation/decision, some things that have helped me:

* Once, when I was faced with leaving Job A in a familiar city to go and work 8,000 miles away - a huge leap into the unknown - a friend said to me: "Well, on your death bed, are you ever going to lie back and think 'Oh, I'm really glad I spent that third year in Job A doing all the same things I'd already done'? No. But you might lie back and think of the big blue skies of [far-flung destination]" And she was right. You've already got plenty of years of experience of the status quo, adding more of the same doesn't add much to the sum total of experiences and opportunities in your life.

* Remember, though it's tempting to compare current life with future life, you simply cannot make an equal, fair comparison at the moment, because you have zero data for the 'what comes next' part of the equation. Your brain is throwing up all the nice things you have at the moment, but you simply can't counter that with all the pretty trails/scenery/whatever that you'll have in your new life, because you don't know them yet. You can't envisage them, you can't conjure up how they'll make you feel. So it's 100% normal to feel more favourable to the status quo, but that doesn't mean it's an accurate assessment of their relative merits: It just means you have no data on the new life.

* At the end of the day, if you try it and don't like it, you can always move back and you'll have an interesting episode and some time close to your Mom to look back on. Which is not to say that you will, but it can make it easier to make the change if you feel like you have a safety net.
posted by penguin pie at 5:33 AM on July 6, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Or, on the last point, as a friend of mine likes to quote:
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
- TS Eliot The Love Song of J Alfred Prufock.

Not sure it's what Eliot meant, but I like to interpret that as meaning that you can undo decisions as easily as you can make them, so why not just make them anyway. (I mean, obvs you probably can't get your current job back, but it doesn't sound like that's something you're likely to want anyway).
posted by penguin pie at 5:43 AM on July 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: OK, so I doubt there's anyone here on Metafilter that is as unhappy about where they live, or as homesick for where they used to live, as I am. I have probably posted hundreds of times about how much I regret moving. I spend literally hours each day looking at my old neighborhood on Google Earth. It's a problem. I get where you're coming from, acutely.

That said... I was talking about this with my therapist recently, and she asked me a series of questions. "Why don't you just move back?" Because my wife wants to stay here. "If you got divorced, would you move back?" No, what about the kids? "What if you got full custody of the kids?" No, they'd still need to see their mom regularly. And so on.

As much as I miss where I used to live, my home, and as much as where I live now makes me want to jump out of a window, the only real option is to be here. I love my version of the trail by your office as passionately as anyone loves any place, but ultimately, I love my wife and kids more.

That's how you're going to have to think of things. Figure out what it is that's pulling you to Florida. The job? Being around your mom? Something you're not even aware of yet? Then, ask yourself if that's more important to you than the trail or the traffic or the weather. Please note that, unlike probably everyone else you'll ever talk to about this, I fully believe that it's OK for you to answer that the trail is more valuable. But you have to actually work through that calculation. If it is more important, go ahead and move. And if you get homesick, just remember that calculation and remind yourself that being there is more important to you, even if it is painful. And if the trail and that stuff is more important, remind yourself of that, too, because if that's what you choose, people are going to question that and you'll feel regret over not moving.

I would ask that you please stop worrying about taking things for granted or not fully taking advantage of your current situation. There's no way to avoid that, even if you could go back and take advantage more. Every situation is so vast, and there are so many competing demands on our attention, that there's no way to fully experience everything, even for a bit. Here's an example: when I think back to college, I'm struck mostly by stuff I wasn't able to do. Classes I wish I could have taken, clubs I wish I could've been more involved with, friends I wish I could've hung out with more, etc. I could have spent fifteen years in college and still not have accomplished everything I wanted to. But when I tell people about my college experience, nearly everyone reacts by saying "wow, you did a LOT of stuff!" And, objectively, I did. I took a really heavy course load so that I could take electives in addition to my major classes. I held leadership positions in several different organizations. I won several intramural championships. I went through the RA training process. I tried out for the ultimate frisbee team and for Homecoming court. I had interesting jobs, like working at Abercrombie when that was still cool, and making pizza at the best pizza place on campus. I played in a garage band. I volunteered. I actively dealt with the aftermath of newsworthy events: the Clinton impeachment, Bush v. Gore, 9/11. I played nearly infinite amounts of Snood. And I got good enough grades that I was accepted to law school afterward. I did plenty, certainly much more than the majority of students. But no matter how much I did, I still feel like I could have, should have done more. The great thing about college is, there's so much interesting stuff to do! It's impossible to do everything, and trying to necessarily means not doing other stuff. Like, maybe I could have stuck with ultimate (one of my HS friends did, and he ended up playing for a national championship), but would I have still been able to have a job, or keep my grades up, or be the Alumni Relations chair for my fraternity? Likewise, you could have spent more time on this trail, but at what cost? The important thing is, you spent some time on the trail, and you made the most of the time you had.

The final thing I'll say is that one of the reasons you probably feel like you didn't take full advantage of things in your current situation is likely because of work stress. If you've been thinking about leaving your job for years, it's probably been pretty bad, in a way that you probably don't realize. It's a low-level hum that's always in the background, making it harder for you to hear other things even though you barely hear it. When you remove that, you'll feel indescribably better. For all the things I don't like about where I live now, I did just start at a wonderful new job, the best job I've ever had, and it has made such a difference in my quality of life. The other day I was putting my daughter to bed, and realized that it's been months since I passed out in her bed while putting her down. At my old job, that was a daily occurrence. I was so exhausted from work that I couldn't even lay down to read a bedtime story without falling asleep. I have so much more energy since I started this job, and while that hasn't made me like living here any more, it has given me a lot more mental bandwidth so that I can do other things than just be upset about work. I'm not saying this should affect your decision-making about moving; you could find another job in Maine, too. But just don't beat yourself up about not doing more, because you've probably been busy dealing with stress, and that's pretty time-consuming.

I know I said that was going to be the final thing, but I have one more. If you do move, the trail is still going to be there. There are plenty of flights from Florida to New England. You can come back at any time and spend a long weekend hitting up your old places. I've done it a couple of times, and while it's not as good as living there, it's better than not doing it.

I've said a lot, but this is a question I could keep on answering forever. If you want to talk about things, memail me.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:57 AM on July 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Wow absolutely every answer here is great (and no offence to AskMe but that's never a given!).

I wanted to add to the above, with two other things to consider

Firstly, this is not the end of your story.

It's really easy to feel like every big decision is The Big One - well, I'm moving to this new state so That's Where I Live Now, and to this new job which will be My New Career, and all that kind of thing. But these are just the next steps in your journey, and who knows where they'll take you.

Here's one more thing. The time when we value things most, I think, is when we are ready, or getting ready to leave them behind. I wanted to be a grown up all the way until the eve of my 18th birthday, and then I got a pang of wanting to stay a kid forever. But I was ready, and had I magically stayed a kid I would have gone mad with frustration. I always enjoyed London but some of the best things I did in it were in the months before I moved away.

If you're just now finding all these things you want to do and see in your current location, that may be a symptom of your readiness for change, not a sign that you shouldn't do it. Go on dates with your city/town. Write it love notes, if you journal (or love songs, like I did). Say a beautiful, passionate goodbye to it, and then come back to visit it with the bittersweet sigh of an old flame in a new, hard-won healthier relationship.
posted by greenish at 8:19 AM on July 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: In our wedding vows, we wrote in the line "you are giving up other futures for this one". It is okay to give yourself some space to let go of one future while you're working on the next one.

I also like to tell folks that I don't regret anything I've done because it all got me to here, and here is pretty good. I'm with smorgasbord - my current here is messy sometimes and not always easy, but it's so much better than previous heres. The house I owned with my ex popped up in my Facebook feed awhile back, and what I said was "I miss that house; it was cute and close to my folks. (I don't miss being at least a 20 minute drive from anything). I don't miss that life. This one is messy and stressful sometimes, but so much better." If you make a change, it's going to be messy and stressful sometimes - but it will be good too, in different ways than your current good, and hopefully you can embrace it. :)
posted by joycehealy at 8:46 AM on July 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think a lot of things in our life that we don't traditionally think of as "grieving" actually are that, and that usually I feel better about things when I am allowing myself to feel the grief and acknowledging what I lost, instead of pretending that it's just a silly thing or that my feelings are something else.

It's okay to grieve the loss of your beautiful home state, even as you are excited for the future! There is space for both emotions in you! I have better success with things if I acknowledge what I'm sad about and why, rather than letting my brain go wild justifying the way it feels with something else!
posted by euphoria066 at 9:09 AM on July 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I, too, have never felt comfortable with change and making choices that lead to it. In fact, many of the major changes in my life came from external forces: lack of money made me transfer colleges; natural disaster made me relocate; layoff made me get a new job.

I'm not sure I would have made those choices without the external force, but that feeling of "half asleep" doesn't usually come in new settings. You can't fall back on habits and comforts, and you come alive. In retrospect, I felt most alive when engaging with the newness of a new job, new city, new college.

While I suppose there is some looking back nostalgically, on the whole, you seem to be wanting to combat the dreariness of your long time job and life with a new gig. Go for it, I'm confident you'll happier and I'm certain you'll be fully awake.
posted by RajahKing at 9:16 AM on July 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 2 1/2 years ago I ended my 40 year residence in the Silicon Valley by picking up and moving to a somewhat obscure Mexican town I had only heard of about a month before.

Things I miss:
Speaking the dominant language
Having access to food from many many cultures
Hiking in the golden California hills

I miss the last the most. There are days my heart aches for a walk on the rim of the Santa Clara Valley.

Why I wouldn’t change a thing:
New friends
Tons and tons of new experiences
Practical Spanish lessons every time I leave the house
I’ll get back to the valley to visit someday

I guess the lesson is that in order to accept missing the status quo, the best thing to do is go create a better one.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:48 AM on July 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: ♡ Thank you, mefites, for your kind and personal replies. They're truly comforting and give me other perspectives, and make me feel braver.
posted by watrlily at 7:59 PM on July 8, 2020

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