Reflecting On Change: Six Months Back in Illinois

Snowy Assembly HallThis morning we woke to the snow—gentle and universal—and it’s another reminder that Orlando, Florida is far away now. The temps here have occasionally been in single digits, but I welcome the life-cycle of seasons that reminds me how our lives too have greys and blues and hints of spring. A few observations. They’re very personal, but maybe you can relate.

I feel tension between familiarity and new. When I arrived, the streets of Champaign had that writers cliche of being both “strange and familiar.” My steering wheel seemed to know the way around, even as I gawked out the window remembering buildings and intersections and how long the left-turn arrow lasts. Now, after six months, I feel emotionally caught between the comfort of being in a place with long personal history and wondering if there are unknown, more exciting things I’m missing. Do we all feel that as often as I do?

When it comes to old friends, stopping-through-town visits are different than re-establishing daily rhythms. It’s been very good to be around old friends again. But past those initial warm meetings and “catch-ups” it’s been a different thing to re-establish the patterns of daily life that overlap. People have changed, or their patterns have. So have mine. Good friendships are not only built on deep history and shared values but also on that sense of “spontaneous unplanned interaction.” While it’s much easier here in Champaign than the other places I’ve been in the last five years, it’s still a challenge to figure that out.

Life stress can vary dramatically. It’s more evident than ever for me: the two years in Orlando were much higher paced and had a significant more level of stress and task than I currently have. These months I feel like I’m just as effective (maybe more?), but the pace is less frenetic and I work much more from the “important” rather than the “urgent” quadrant. This is a welcome change for now. Here’s the thing though: I’m actually not convinced that I want to avoid high stress moments. Some of my most memorable accomplishments have been under pressure. It suggests to me that seasons of slower and then faster and then slower may be a good way to live.

Change reveals constants. Changing responsibilities and locations—leaving one fish bowl for another—maybe can give us a better clarity on what remains and what goes away. I’m reminded again that the core things I love are authoring, teaching, information, systems, and human communication.

Observations by nature are unsettled, and these certainly are. But as I look ahead to this coming year, they are helpful to me.