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Monday, June 22, 2015

Keep the Change

Things change, as you know. Often I'm an advocate for change because it means that circumstances are getting better. I like social change. Progress.

Of course, it's a different matter when I visit my hometown and notice things changing.

I'm not the first person ever to bristle at change in one's hometown. I think many of us can relate to this. We may like change in the abstract, but when change surprises us, it can be uncomfortable. Maybe we like change when we get to vote on it ahead of time and we're mentally prepared for it. When it sneaks up on us, it's a different matter. Hey, we're human! We can have mixed feelings.

Anyway, I'm in my hometown, visiting my parents, and as I took my morning walk today I noticed lots of change. I visit often but still, changes pop up even between my visits. Big, new houses are replacing the cute little cottages in the neighborhood. This has been happening for decades but it seems to be happening more frequently than before (of course it could just be me). This neighborhood once was lined with darling little houses from the 1940s, like the adorable two-bedroom house where I grew up. Now there are two-story houses with beautiful landscaping and endless storage popping up in their place. I get it, in a way--I have storage envy, too. But still, I am a little sad that things are changing.

You can't resist change, they say. So as I walked the streets near my parents house, I tried to think positively. I reminded myself that it could be a lot worse. In one of my favorite books, a woman's hometown is damaged severely by a tornado. Her home is gone. The store where she worked is destroyed. Where I live tornadoes we don't get tornadoes, and at least my hometown doesn't look like a birthday piƱata after kids rip it to shreds in search of candy. But still, accepting change can be tricky.

So I play devil's advocate for a minute. Let's say everything was the same as it was thirty years ago. That's the case in some places where people have moved away, where the town is nearly abandoned. I wouldn't want that. Still, this change business can be hard to digest.

Why is change so threatening? Even those of us who think we like change grapple with this. Do we want landmarks from our childhood memories preserved because childhood (hopefully) evokes more innocent times and we long for the days when life was simpler?

I remember a few times when people told me that I'd changed. Usually they didn't mean it as a compliment! Maybe they wanted me to be the same as I was at eighteen or twenty five. They didn't like that I'd grown in a new direction. I'm forty-one, and parts of me are as they were when I was eighteen, and parts aren't. I've grown as a person, which is good, and I can't be anything other than what I am right now. There must be some analogy to fit the change in my hometown, too. Parts of this town are as they were decades ago, and parts are different. It's more crowded, yes, and that feels like a downside. But maybe that means that there are more jobs in this community than in the past, which helps our state's and country's economy. There will be upsides and downsides to change. And there will be change.

We can't keep the past frozen in time. We'll have to accept the changes. There still are pieces of the past in our hometowns and in each of us, but there will be change and growth, too. We can treasure our memories but we'll survive the changes better if we try to find some good in the new developments, too. What else can we do? Keep the change.


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