Should you trust your change?
It’s 3:12 a.m. on Monday, October 19, 2020.
Most nights, I’m sound asleep by now. Snoring. Counting sheep. Hibernating like a papa bear.
Instead, I’m awake and calculating time. If I fall asleep right now, I will get exactly 2 hours and 38 minutes of sleep. 2 hours and 38 minutes before I shake the kids awake, before I pour cereal, before I pack lunches, before I quiz Haley on igneous rock formations or tell Chase to not forget his mask or ask Dylan if he’s going to smile today. 2 hours and 38 minutes before I hustle my three children to the corner and kiss three foreheads as a bus with blinking lights cuts through the foggy, gray morning and slows toward us.
But right now at 3:12 a.m. I stare at the ceiling fan worrying about a 3 word sentence I wrote three and a half years ago.
“Trust your change,” boomed over the stadium speakers, across the football field, through the finely dressed crowd and into the perfect evening on June 23, 2017. Invited to deliver the 2017 graduation speech at the high school where I taught English, I spent weeks crafting a sentence that was not just a call to action, but easy to remember when you found yourself wide awake in the dead of night.
It’s a terse and seemingly profound sentence. Like something embroidered on t-shirts on sale at yoga studios. Trust. Your. Change. Like something Tony Robbins might scream in a hotel packed conference room as glitter and confetti and balloons fall from the ceiling.
Little did I know, when I was writing it three and a half years ago, my three word sentence would haunt me like a ghost on this dark October night.
Earlier, around 1:30 pm the previous day, I watched a football game on TV when Haley bounced into the family room wearing a new pair of jeans.
“Dad, what do you think?” She flicked her blonde hair, pouted her lips, and fixed her hand on her hip like some preteen tea cup with an attitude.
“They have rips in them. Why would you buy jeans already ripped?”
“That’s the style. Do you like them?”
“They make you look older.”
“That’s what mom said.” And then she smiled and bounced out of the room and I went back to the football game feeling nothing short of old.
Later that day, around 5 p.m., still on the same couch watching a different football game when Cindy entered.
“Did the Eagles win?”
“Do you think you’ll clean up your desk soon? I’d like to put some Halloween decorations on it.”
Since I taught my last English class three weeks ago, my “desk”, which is just our old kitchen table, is an organized mess, a lot like how I kept my real desk for the past 18 years. Maybe I find comfort in the scattering of familiar books and binders fat with poems I’ve collected and the symmetry of school calendars and the Post-its scribbled with my own blue-inked chicken scratch.
Maybe I’m just reluctant to box up an old way of life and accept change.
Or maybe I’m just being lazy.
“I will. But I’ve been busy.” I show her the remote and begin flipping channels with steely-eyed determinism.
Cindy smiles, shakes her head, and walks away.
The evening quickly passes. Dinner, homework, showers, and now it’s 3:12 a.m..
I kick off the comforter and watch the ceiling fan turn and think about opening a window. In a life wrought with big decisions, this one, right now, seems the biggest. What if I stagger all the way to the window, open the window, stagger back to bed, crawl into bed, only to get cold again? Or what if it rains while I’m sleeping and the rain works through the screen and soaks the rug? Or what if a rabid raccoon climbs through the open window and eats my heart in my sleep?
A man who once confidently stood behind a podium and instructed a football stadium to, “Trust your change,” is in bed awake and terrified.
Why is change so hard? Is it because we have to replace the known with the unknown? Is it because we don’t have enough faith or confidence in ourselves to make a change? Or is it because change requires effort and we’re just too damn tired to change? How could I have the audacity to tell thousands of people to trust their change if I couldn’t? How can I tell my children life favors the brave if I’m not brave? Am I a hypocrite? A liar? A coward?
My alarm rings at 5:40 a.m.. I drag myself out of bed, limp down the hallway, wrestle awake the kids, pour cereal, make lunches, lead them to the bus stop, kiss foreheads and around noon, take my third cup of coffee to my writing room.
My day-to-day life has changed dramatically in the past 3 weeks. My daughter is changing. My health is changing. And there is little I can do to prevent these changes.
I open the computer, take a sip, and look out the window at the tree in the front yard. It’s leaves, in recent days, have changed from green to yellow and orange and red.
As I write this sentence, I realize the convenience of writing about change in late October. It seems like a planned coincidence. Like in April I scratched on my calendar to write about change in October. Like a cliched novel, where a seasonal change neatly coincides with a character’s emotional change. But I’m not a fictional character. I didn’t plot this. The truth is, no matter the season, we’re constantly changing. Haley. You. Me. And there is not a fearless hero in this novel sprinting to save you from your changes or from that murderous raccoon that lurks just below your bedroom window.
“Trust your change” sounds smart but practicality is a problem. To trust your change you must first trust yourself. And to trust yourself, you must take deliberate, decisive action toward accepting your change.
Or you may find yourself tossing-and-turning, calculating time, and worrying about the changes that are coming, like an early morning school bus, no matter how tired you are.
PS– Thanks to all of my students who took time to write to me. Your thoughts and anecdotes brought me comfort, inspiration, and made for good, honest reading. Especially when I couldn’t fall asleep.
Below is the box a student painted to house all the letters.
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