When Change is the Only Constant

We all know this feeling — change is the only thing we can expect. American life is centered around change: election seasons, restaurant openings, IPOs, graduations, the next iPhone.

These examples are, of course, only superficial. The change that rips through our personal lives is the kind that really disrupts us, even if only briefly. Friends move across the country, colleagues take a new job, family members pass away. We rally around these events to celebrate the end of an era, and then, Monday morning, we go back to work.

The cyclical way of adult life is not unlike the persistence of ocean waves — you only notice the consistency when there’s a current change, an undertow, a red flag at the lifeguard stand. Page-turns define the chapters, not the other way around.

“Change is unpredictable, but it is not unexpected.” I learned this mantra as part of a crisis communication class I took as a senior in college, but I never intended to internalize it so deeply.

How do we prepare ourselves to constantly adapt? Humans are biologically prepared to evolve steadily, sure, but that doesn’t really help us deal with change that slingshots us into a different lifestyle.

Embracing change as I settled into post-grad life turned out to be more like doomsday prepping. Like a millennial survivalist, I retreated to my bed in the back corner of my dusty basement apartment and escaped into the glow of yet another Friends marathon, away from the suits and tourists who bustled outside.

Because change was the only constant, it was impossible to feel grounded, though I desperately wanted to. I wanted to depend on my friends, my job, my apartment to provide some semblance of consistency, but I could not build a home in people and places that were constantly shifting too.

Feeling grounded requires roots, but I didn’t feel rooted in anything. I wanted to trade my roots for a propeller, something that would push me, but would also let me rest.

I thought back to the mantra from my crisis comm class as my best friends and I pulled up to the corner of Franklin and Columbia on Friday evening. We had just arrived in God’s favorite Zip code for the weekend, and I was hoping to document the weekend for a blog post dedicated to our 48 hours in Chapel Hill.

Before we got to town, we made a list of all the things we wanted to see and do over the weekend — our non-negotiables — the food we had to eat, mostly. The list got longer as we got closer to Orange County, and suddenly there wasn’t enough time or money or daylight to do all the things I wanted. The days went by in a blur of debauchery and girl talk as we pin-balled from one empty bar to the next.

Everything was dead, and I don’t mean the beloved “Tar Heel-dead” manner of a Saturday morning. It was just empty and different and sad. Chapel Hill did not feel like it was mine — new restaurants and new students with whom I begrudgingly shared my stomping grounds.

The only non-negotiable item that made a double appearance on our list was He’s Not Here. It was the first time all weekend that I truly felt at home, both at 1 a.m. and 5 p.m. Between my child-size hands was a cup larger than my adult-size head, teeming with the same crisp beer that had stained my clothes every Wednesday night for the past four years.

As if it were ritual, my gal pals and I traded sips as we shared a set of darts under the neon lights below the stairs. It was almost spiritual to go back to the same place where we first met as sophomores, gathered around the sticky green benches to watch Battle of the Bands, shouting at each other over the music.

I couldn’t tell whether time just stands still in the sanctuary of weathered picnic tables and peeling murals in the HNH courtyard, or a liter of Blue Moon just really does it for me. Regardless, I would like to propose some local legislation that makes it impossible for this bar to ever close. It is truly non-negotiable.

Roy (Cooper or Williams), if you’re reading this, please help.

You see, I need to make a list of the non-negotiable things in my life, the things I can depend on to keep me grounded. I will always need some semblance of the following things: a comfortable living space, a creative outlet, a colorful diet, an open mind, a sense of purpose. These things are completely under my control and rely on my willingness to carry a sense of home within myself, wherever I may be.

While I’m working on all of that, I need He’s Not Here to keep the Pint Night’s coming — staying grounded is a lot of work.  

Of course, keeping a few Blue Cups in my kitchen has helped a lot.