It’s so easy to get into a rut, even after making major life changes. A little over seven years ago I decided to make a fresh start. I moved across the country, bought a new house, found a new job, and later changed careers. The rhythm of my life also changed. Instead of intense parenting during the school year and childfree summers, I rotated parenting duty weekly with the kids’ dad. When I left teaching and went into the business world of publishing, the work cycle of my year also changed. Looking back, the first 2-3 years in Austin were full of changes.
Many of the changes have been good. Some were challenging. Having your kids become teenagers is definitely a challenge. Adopting two rescue dogs has been a little challenging but mostly good. I’m more a cat person, truthfully, and we already had two cats at the time. My daughter, though, often spoke longingly and lovingly about dogs – the neighbors’ dogs, her friends’ dogs – and said that as soon as she grew up, she was going to get a dog. In one of those intensely sentimental moments that parents sometimes experience, I saw my daughter, then 12, suddenly grown up and moving away from home. She’s only here for five more years, I told myself, somewhat panicky. Only five more years to give her the best home experiences I can manage! And before I could tell myself ‘Shouldn’t you think about this a bit more?’ I had researched dog rescue groups, talked to my dog-people friends, and found two dogs to adopt. As expected, my daughter was ecstatic about this change in our lives. She and her brother love the dogs and the dogs love them. I love the dogs, too, but I wish they wouldn’t shed so much or bark so loudly at everyone walking dogs near our house.
Despite all these changes, I soon fell into a rut – same shops, same restaurants, same areas of town, same routine for almost everything, year after year. When I saw one of the biggest changes coming at me – kids moving out – I decided that I needed to change it up, get a fresh start as an empty nester. Hence, the quest for a new home. I wanted something different from my large suburban house. I wanted something smaller, with more character, and closer to town. I was planning to change it up a lot more by enjoying the cultural life and fun events that Austin has to offer. Yessiree, I was going to get out of my rut. No more same old, same old for me!
Then came the fire and all the involuntary changes that accompanied that. Suddenly, change didn’t seem so attractive after all, at least the change I couldn’t control. I started to think more about what I truly wanted. Was I such a creature of habit that I couldn’t let go of my routines? Was I stuck in my rut? Why was I so uncomfortable with the changes? And who moved my cheese? True, having change forced on you is different than choosing it, but it’s also true that change is not easy even when it’s voluntary. Living in a rental house with very little of my personal stuff forced me to rethink what I was looking for in a new home and a new stage of my life. It would be easy to move back to my rebuilt home and stay there; after all, I can choose exactly how I want to rebuild it. My work location has also changed recently and would be a shorter commute if I stayed. It was tempting, especially during the first stressful month or so. About four months have gone by since the fire now, and I’ve had time to reflect. If anything, all these changes have, in the end, confirmed that I’m ready to move on and try something different. I realize that I’ll eventually get into a rut again once I’ve settled down into a new house in a new neighborhood, but it will be a new rut. And until then, I’m planning to embrace change.