My friend Mitch Mitchell asked me why I do this—why I rip apart my blog and start over every few years. My first thought was, “Beats moving.”
I’m told that when I was about seven, and we had lived in our new house for six months or so, I asked my parents when we were going to move again. No, I’m not a military brat; I don’t recall much about our previous moves. I just liked fresh starts and new adventures, even then.
But I was a child. They sheltered me from the more annoying aspects of change—the packing, the cleaning, the logistics of moving house. Change was easy, for me. Change represented a vast unknown, something to be embraced.
I never had any fear of change.
Variety’s the Very Spice of Life
“Variety’s the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavour.”
The Task, Book 2. The Timepiece
Change Can Be Challenging
Can we ever really appreciate the easy wins?
I grew up and learned to both dread and appreciate the challenge of change – to dread the drudgery of change-as-busywork, but also to enjoy the well-earned rewards of a worthwhile challenge. One of the most worthwhile challenges involved in change is that of learning new things. Another is being able to smile, with smug satisfaction, at the naysayers. The ones who said, “It can’t be done.”
Unlike many people, I don’t have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into new technologies and new ways of doing things, provided they’re an improvement on the old. I’ll work ten times harder to automate or change a process that’s tedious than the effort involved in just doing it the old way. The words, “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” are an infuriating excuse.
One of my first jobs was to learn the report distribution system at a major oil company. At first, this was fun. I learned how to use machinery that sliced pinfeed holes off the edges of three-foot stacks of computer printouts, and I learned how to operate another machine that separated the carbon and printed paper from “multipart forms,” not just forms, but those three-foot stacks of paper printouts, printed on an impact printer. After doing this, I would sit down to the mind-numbingly boring work of breaking out bits of reports using a letter opener, and sometimes I would bag those bits up in sheets of plastic, then use a large heat sealer to create the “bags” that they’d be shipped to their recipients in. It didn’t take long before terminal boredom set in.
In fact, I almost didn’t get that job; the supervisor told me, during my interview, that his only concern was that, with my college degree, I’d be bored to tears and quit within a week or two.
I told him I wasn’t a quitter. And I promised him 6-12 months, even if I hated the job. I just wanted to work. He gave me a chance, and I stayed nearly ten years.
What he didn’t tell me, though, was that I was being trained to loathe the job I’d been hired to do, in order to “evangelize” an automated report distribution system that was being developed.
It worked. I sold that thing like my sanity depended on it, and found creative ways to convince the folks who thought it would leave them out of a job that, if they got on board with the automation and learned new ways of doing things, they’d be more valuable than ever.
But change-as-busywork is boring. I don’t fear change; I fear boredom. It is wasted effort, and I’m quite capable of wasting effort in more enjoyable ways! Some might argue that redesigning this website is one of those ways.
William Cowper was not really extolling the virtues of change when he wrote that quotable line about variety. He continues, as follows:
“…We have run
Through every change that fancy, at the loom
Exhausted, has had genius to supply,
And, studious of mutation still, discard
A real elegance, a little used,
For monstrous novelty and strange disguise.
We sacrifice to dress, till household joys
And comforts cease. Dress drains our cellar dry,
And keeps our larder lean; puts out our fires,
And introduces hunger, frost, and woe,
Where peace and hospitality might reign.“
The Task, Book 2. The Timepiece
This poem is not irrelevant to the redesign of this blog. I have no desire to sacrifice a real elegance for monstrous novelty and strange disguise. That would be the antithesis of what I hope to accomplish.
I have never found hunger, frost, and woe particularly inspiring. Nor is exhaustion, and the feeling of being “a little used.” Get up from the loom, fill the well with novel experiences, lest whatever fancy “genius” might once have supplied runs dry. Already, my son has begun reciting numbers: “Three,” or “Eleven,” or “Five” to point out the number of times I’ve repeated the same stories. If it were old age or senility, it would be excusable; unfortunately, I’ve just run out of new material.
In a few months, I will retire from a career that’s spanned over 20 years in fields as varied as teaching, online game development, training, technical writing, online help and web design, text analytics, social media, project management and more. Oh, however will I fill the days and hours? And where will I fill them, once the corporate cubicle walls fall away?
I’ve considered eating bonbons and crafting crocheted Voodoo dolls, but probably won’t. In the coming year, I intend to rediscover household joys and comforts, stoking the fires of imagination with good books, given the luxury of time to read and truly savor them. I’ll “play tourist” in my own home town, and travel far from home as well. Maybe I’ll take pleasure in writing fiction, again.
Having learned to tend a garden without killing anything, I’ll plant the seeds of learning in order to feed my brain, even if it means making peace with Elegant Themes’ exasperating page builder, Divi, in order to create an online place where hospitality might reign. I am nothing, if not stubborn.
Life should be like a good book, don’t you think? One where we hungrily devour each new chapter, and cannot bear to put it down for sleep.