Moving On—Coming to Terms with the Changes in Your Life
I’ve given notice at my job, but I have to be honest—moving on scares me. When I find circumstances or people that feel special to me, I feel like I want to hold onto that forever. Part of me thinks that if I have something good, I shouldn’t make any changes in my life. But there comes a time when I feel I have given all the energy I’m able to give and have explored everything I’m able to explore and need some new or different challenges. That involves coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be an expert in the next thing I try. I won’t have a day-to-day presence in the lives of the people I’ve worked with for many years.
This is all true, but I’ll also have the opportunity to become an expert at something else and become part of other people’s lives, even if I become a memory to the people in my life right now. We all experience changes in our lives—big changes and little changes. The effects of some of these are hard to anticipate and can be challenging to fully comprehend and assimilate.
But I did give notice at my job—three years’ notice, but notice all the same. I need time to adjust. I love what I do. I’m an environmental economist for the National Ocean Service and have had this job since 1990. Because I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s become part of my identity (my email signature line—Pete Wiley, Economist—has been there since email was invented, literally). But to keep growing as a person, I need to do something new that challenges me in a different way.
Moving on from people’s lives
People come and go. Right now, I have bosses that I love and colleagues that are also good friends. They are smart, passionate people who inspire me and are a joy to be around. But I’m still leaving. A voice in my head regularly grabs me by the lapels and screams, “What the hell are you doing?! You’re making good money, you believe in what you do, and you’ll never find circumstances again that are so special!”
The fact is that we’re constantly moving on from people’s lives. People move on—it’s part of life. Sometimes it can seem catastrophic—the end of a relationship that at one time meant everything to me, the death of my father, friends who have moved away—each of these have felt like the sky was falling and the ground had given way under my feet. But I always meet new people, and then they become the world to me.
I have a lot of good friends. But many of my friends are connections related to activities. I have work friends, I have music friends, and I have friends I go to a cabin with every winter (“event friends”). All of these friends are more than the nature of the circumstances that made them friends. The circumstances are dynamic, but many of the friendships endure. For example, my cabin friends used to be college friends. We found new circumstances that helped us remain friends.
One of my (many) irrational worries is that I’ll run out of friends. I hate the idea of passing to the realm of my friends’ memories and eventually passing out of their memories entirely. But throughout our lives, we continually meet new people, get to know them, and then drift away from them. It’s human nature. If we want certain people to stay in our lives, we have to work to make that happen. I have plans for that after I leave my job—big plans—but I also know that there will be some friends who will move on. I’m trying to have faith that the new people I meet will fill those gaps.
I’ve been on the same path for a long time. I have taken various small paths off the main path along the way, but generally, I’ve been going the same direction. Leaving my job will allow me to take an entirely different path as well give me the freedom to explore many different paths along the way. My new job, as a writer and musician, has a lot of flexibility and will give me the freedom to create a path that is perfect for me and to make changes in the path along the way. Leaving my very stable, rewarding, and lucrative path is a leap of faith. And even though I get hassled by “the voice” on occasion, I know there are many paths I can take, and I don’t want to stay on the same one my whole life.
A mindset of constant change
One way to think about momentous life changes is to remember that When I find myself in circumstances where I feel grateful and at home, I need to remember that I’m beginning to move away from that, beginning to change, immediately—in the next moment. I shouldn’t look at these changes with a sense of sadness or longing but rather with optimism and anticipation. I can’t help that things are going to change, but I can influence how they are changing. I’m not losing a perfect time but moving on to the next set of perfect moments. If I can recognize that reality, life can remain happy and exciting. This doesn’t mean I won’t look back with sentiment and warmth at past moments that were important to me, but that should not take the place of my being fully in the present moment and recognizing that the present is just as important.
Top of the Hill
Everything I see will be gone
As everything I know moves on
From the best of times to my dearest friend
Each thing will come to an end
As I look around to not forget.
I see so much I’ll miss and yet,
so much more that I can find,
in days to come—a new goldmine.
Moving on is bittersweet.
Some goodbyes but friends to meet,
in some still unknown coming time,
at the top of the hill which I must climb.
And at the top I’ll look around,
at all the new friends I have found,
and all the roads I’ve yet to take,
and all the feelings I’ll awake.
But today I am still here with you
And all the magic we’ve come through.
And maybe we will meet again,
At the top of the hill with you my friend.