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Here’s why we have to take change personally

Please read the following question carefully, and answer it as truthfully as possible.

In the past few years, my work life has gone through more changes than:

A. An overcrowded nursing home.


A remote control in the home of family of seven all suffering with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

We’re told — and tell one another —not to take change personally.

On the one hand, it’s good advice, necessary advice. It can allows us to go on and face the future. On the other hand, it’s the worst possible advice possible for living life fully. Consider the modern mantra to protect us against meaninglessness and urge us to success: “Be passionate.”

So, can someone please tell me how it’s possible to be passionate without taking things personally?

The very word passionate gives us a clue about the difficulties of change. It’s a word that describes a relationship.

And though we usually think of a relationship as something we have with another person, we relate to all the things in our lives. Three that come to my mind are newspapers, universities and hospitals.

Changes in those relationships can be difficult, not only for us as individuals, but for a community filled with people just like us who also have relationships to all those things — relationships all slightly different from ours.

And that touches on one of the more difficult aspects of change: the way it can change the way get along with one another.

The claim is that journalists thrive on conflict.

Some might. Then again, there’s a world of drama kings and queens out there who find steady work outside the field.

One of the things I find most difficult on the job is seeing people of good will — people I like — divided by the change over which they have little or no control. That’s both because I like those people and because I know what going through that kind of conflict is like, since my workplace has gone through changes.

I’ve been thinking lately about the former graduates of the Community Hospital School of Nursing. All feel a loss for the school that was and no longer is. And that loss has led to a division among them.

Some feel the changes moving to the new Clark State-Springfield Regional School of Nursing have led to a rupture in the story of nursing education in Springfield and its long tradition. They have a sense something has been lost that can’t be retrieved.

Others have the sense that the same education continues, though in a different form. And if there has been a loss, many reckon, it’s a loss no one could prevent — that times have simply changed, that the inevitable must be accepted and it’s time to look to the future.

I suspect many feel a little of both. And from experience, I know there’s nothing quite so vexing as arguing against an argument you almost believe yourself, even when the arguing goes on only in your own head.

Where each person comes down on this matter is important to his or her own sense of loyalty to the past and connection to the future. These are personal things, touching on things all involved hold dear, the very things on which people part company.

Some have, and it hurts.

The reason: We’re not just held together by ideas. We’re also held together by more complex relationships with one another, by a sense of our community that links us despite our differences. This doesn’t stop our ideas from having a say in what Larry McMurtry’s book title so smartly called our “terms of endearment” — or the conditions under which we feel most strongly connected with one another.

Because I’ve stumbled through change, I want to say something to people on both sides of this divide and maybe others.

And I’ll need a running start.

As a journalist, I’ve met may people who have been brought low by sudden tragedy. It’s given me a sense of my own potential vulnerability to it and a deep uncertainty about knowing how I might respond to it — a sense that no one can really know until it knocks on the front door.

I’ve always thought it a sign a health when I see people struck low by such things rise up and find it in themselves to help others — people who, while climbing their own personal mountains, reach a hand out to help others.

Of course, the alumni groups I’ve talked about aren’t faced with this kind of challenge. But in the face of change, it’s still worth noting that both have found ways to continue to give.

The City-Community Hospital School of Nursing Alumni are raising money to help former graduates complete bachelor of nursing degrees the state soon will require, a substantial undertaking and one that can occupy them for some time to come.

The Clark State Community College-Springfield Regional School of Nursing Alumni are looking to celebrate and support graduates of the new school, an unending assignment.

What I see is two groups that continue to care about nursing and nursing education in Springfield working toward supporting it in ways they feel most comfortable. Members of both continue to take their commitment to nursing the way they should take it: personally.

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