Every year, as I enjoy the holidays with my family I’m always surprised how much things change: the town I grew up in, my family, my sister’s children. For me, a lot has changed in the last six months. In June, I started having problems following a conversation when discussing patients with my fellow physicians. At the time, I was on a stressful rotation in my residency, and so I chalked it up to that. I then started having problems with fatigue and balance as well, and the combination of my symptoms advanced to the point where I needed to take a leave of absence from my residency. Being sick and unable to work has given me a lot of time to think about the role change plays in my life, and about change in general.
I have never been afraid of change, and I try to view it as an opportunity to grow. I identify myself as buddhist, at least in part. One of the main teachings in buddhism that is important to me is about the impermanent nature of life. Life is not static, and things are always changing; that is simply the nature of things. For me, the holidays help to emphasize the changes that are going on in the world I know, as well as the changes that are happening to the people I care about. It is exciting to watch my nephews grow up and become their own individual people. It’s amazing to meet my computer teacher from elementary school again, and realize that the last time I saw her was almost 20 years ago, and yet I still recognized that I knew her.
Despite this view of change, part of me is still sad about the impermanence of things in life. I realized this while I was riding in the car with my family around the town I grew up in. Open spaces that once were are now filled. Business that I used to frequent now closed. I know that it is inevitable for changes like this to happen, but on some level I am afraid of it. It came to me that the reason seeing this change makes me nervous is because it emphasizes my own mortality. Life moving forward means I’m moving forward: towards death.
It is said that death and taxes are the only things that are givens in life, and death is usually a scarier proposition then taxes. Change is also a given in life, and it scares many people almost as much as death does because, in a way change lead to death. We all must grow old, and at some point we will die. That is simply a fact of life. My New Year’s resolution is to embrace the change in my life and to try not to be afraid of it. We may have some control over the direction of where my life heads, but so much is out of my control. Change is going to be there regardless, so I might as well roll with it.