Adapting to an ever-changing world

Lavette Williams, Editor-in-Chief

On the first day of the spring semester, I stepped out of my Suzuki . I fixed my jacket upright on my shoulders and swung my backpack on. Last first day of college, I mumbled behind my mask. Nearly there.

I was so close to graduating, I could taste it and yet, it was so far away. I looked around before slamming my door shut and when I did, I met eyes with a stranger who had just got out of their car too – a non-traditional marketing student, who would later tell me that his name was “Jackie.”

Jackie and I walked to class together, engaging in small talk – what year are you? What’s your major? What do you want to do once you graduate?

I told Jackie my bare bones plan that I had after graduating in the summer. I told him that I wanted to stay in the Shoals area, grow my personal brand and eventually, move off to pursue a career in journalism.

Afterwards, with uncertainty – no wait, maybe it was fear – I said, “But you never know. My plans could change.” I shrugged, trying to shake off the anxiety building up. I think maybe Jackie heard this angst in my voice, or saw it in my eyes because he replied, “As humans, we have to be open to change.”

There was an expression on his face and in his demeanor that told me that he held the same value as I had, the same faith in God. Jackie just wore it differently and quite obviously, walked more confidently with purpose. I admired that about him.

The two of us parted ways once I reached Cramer Way and although he had continued on towards Harrison Fountain, his words stayed with me. They permeated my thoughts and took a seat with me in class while my professor lectured. They also followed me home and later that night, left me laying in bed with wide eyes, staring at my jagged ceiling.

Be open to change.

How do I open my arms to something that is in constant flux? And how do I let it go when it has only been there for a minute, a day, a month, or sometimes, if I’m lucky, a year? And once I open up, how do I trust that this change is good?

Change is applying for graduation not knowing what comes next. Change is trying to remember that it’s 2022 when writing the date. Change is unlocking the door to a new, empty apartment. Change is quitting a day job to pursue a career. Change is saying hello to a new lover. Change is saying “see you soon” to a family member. Change is scary.

It is. It’s hard to let it in when you’re used to consistency. It is like being accustomed to pulling open a door and walking inside only to one day find it sealed with caution tape, or finding the perfect outfit and then someone handing you a new one, and saying, “Here, put this on instead.” It is itchy, uncomfortable. It doesn’t fit well at all.

I think what I have come to understand is that you do not have to accept the change that is being thrown at you. You don’t have to like the fact that a door is off limits. You don’t have to like the outfit given to you. But, you do have to learn how to adapt to it. You have to find another unlocked door, even if that means you have to twist every knob you come into contact with. You have to find another way to make that attire work, even if it means you have to get it tailored. Why? Because that is the only way for us to make us through.

Really, life is all about adjusting.

However, in the past year or so, I think we all have had to do a bit more “adjusting” than we’re used to. Together, we have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and with new variants spreading, we still are. We have experienced a social movement – the Black Lives Matter movement. We have faced an increasing political divide. We’ve been through it all.

One thing to acknowledge is that in this uncertainty, this uncomfortability, this change, we, as people, have grown.

After having a “come to Jesus” moment, I realized that Jackie was right. Even as I walked with him on campus that first day of class, I could recount more ways that change had been fruitful to me than it had been detrimental. During those times, I remember fighting the change – the heartache, the pain, the loss. What would have happened if I had just been open to that change? I imagined it may not have been easier, but perhaps, less stressful.

This week, I would like to be a Jackie for you. I would like to be a subtle reminder that change is normal and necessary, and instead of going against the grain, I want to encourage you to try embracing it.