Stormy Seas

Change can arrive like a dropped bomb, converting your carefully constructed life into a pile of rubble in an instant.

You look around, ears ringing, trying to figure out what happened, and as the reality sets in, your stomach clenches up with the instinctual understanding that the reality you’ve labored to build is gone now. It’s gone.

The twin shocks of sunk costs and a loss of stable ground upon which to stand then give way to a realization that the plans you’ve made apply to a future that no longer exists. Your investments have become losses, your dreams will remain just dreams, your sense of concreteness has been upended. You have to reassess all of your presuppositions and understandings, and the things you thought were set and secure are neither.

The specifics are different each time, of course, but unexpected change, sparked by an outside variable or catalyzed by some internal entity or structure—perhaps even some facet of yourself—can lead to intellectual confusion, emotional whiplash, and psychological strain. It can expose portions of you that you thought were well-protected and put you face-to-face with awkward or deflating realities.

Change is hard. Unexpected change can be devastating.

A bomb is the wrong metaphor, actually, because that implies someone with malice actively attempted to destroy your world, while more often these disruptions are acts of nature, existing in the atmospheric ether, always there, swirling about, generally harmless or even useful, but on occasion distorting in such a way that they can blast your reality to bits, dropping like a bomb cyclone, tearing your masts apart and threatening to capsize your carefully crafted everything.

It’s possible to feel prepared for such change, to even ordinarily enjoy the adventure of riding a reorganization-related trade wind from place to place, but to still be caught unaware, unprepared, muscles un-flexed when the gut-punch of reality and anxiety and future-facing nostalgia strike you out of seemingly nowhere with a splash of salty water and a whiff of over-saturated air.

All you can really do in such moments is lean into the wind, hike up your collar against the impending downpour, and ride out the storm to the best of your ability.

You’ll get soaked, you’ll lose cherished things to the gale, you’ll watch as important aspects of your life and plans fall overboard. You might wonder about the point of it all, the point of fighting it, of struggling to hold yourself upright.

But you’ll survive.

You’ll wake up one morning and realize that the sky’s actually pretty clear today, and it looks nice. And in comparison to what you’ve just been through, it’s actually more than nice: it’s incredible. It’s beautiful.

You’ll rebuild your masts and adjust your sails, orienting yourself maybe in some entirely novel direction, maybe toward the same coastline, but with a better understanding of what you’ll do when you get there.

In either case, you’ve learned from the stress and the tumult. You’ve come out the other side a little more capable, if a bit weathered.

At some point the realization hits: although you’re not headed toward your original, intended destination—because the situation has changed, because you’ve changed—you’re kind of okay with that. Even a little bit excited about the possibilities.

It won’t be smooth sailing—it seldom is.

But exposure to such squalls is how we earn our callouses and remember to appreciate calmer winds and clearer skies.

Lacking such disruptions, it’s easy to take the enjoyable, seemingly unremarkable moments for granted. They put into stark, exhausting, magnificent context where we are, where we’ve been fortunate to be, and where we’re going next.

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