John G Bell
Reflective Practicum 1
Spring '04 - Hormann

Assignment 1 – Experiences of Change

In hindsight I can see that each decade of my life has been characterized by a larger theme. I do not mean to say that there have not been other themes, or that the only changes I've experienced had spans of decades involved. There does seem to be, however, a pattern of overall change in theme from one decade to the next. Typically there is a period of transition at the beginning and the formulation of a reason, purpose and plan that leads toward the next theme. When I was young, I was characterized as the prodigal. The next decade transitioned to acting. After that theme, the thematic period was of reclusive thinking in poetry and artistry. My most recently embarked upon transition has been toward learning and academic milestones, which could turn into a larger theme of teaching.

If I had been asked, a couple years ago, where I would be now, I could not have guessed that I would be in graduate school. I experienced a radical end to my professional life and my personal life and my social life. The work I had been doing was interrupted by the tech stock crash and my employer went bankrupt and there were no jobs available. My domestic partner and I separated, moved out of our shared place, and had a minor custody battle over the cats. My social network, which at the time was linked mostly the my domestic partner's family, became uncomfortable and difficult to maintain.

I entered a period of transition which led me to several introspective activities. I started to look for what things I had previously found joy in doing, and tried them again. I went back to the stage. I attended hockey games. I connected with old friends. I investigated what it would take to complete my Associates Degree. I also started doing long solo hikes, frequent mountain biking and yoga and attended several public rituals of spring and summer.

At one point, after having journeyed through my personal landscape, I had the experience of new growth. The director of my previous non-profit started new non-profit with some new grants to continue the good work that had laid fallow. I realized that I should go back to school, so I started to earnestly pursue a petition for my two year degree and search for an institution to continue my studies. I had started to form a reason, a purpose and a plan for going forward.

As pointed out in Transitions, the process of change is characterized by a process. My ideas of reason, purpose and plan fit with the model of transitions following in the three major steps of endings, transitions and beginnings. My reason was the motivation to surrender to the ending of what came before. My purpose was the vision of what to do next that came as new growth from the fallow period of transition. My plan for how to make these happen was falling into place as an emergence into a new beginning.

My observation is that change is characterized by patterns. By this I mean that the process of change becomes repeated as a pattern. Also, I've noticed that subsequent change is not merely a pattern fractals repeated, but that each subsequent change involves the previous change experience. I have often felt that fate has conspired to create for me experiences that reflect on my previous change experiences from new angles. For example, following a relationship where I was emotionally unavailable to my partner, I might enter into a relationship where my new partner was emotionally unavailable to me. In my professional life, I might have ideas about what's wrong with management during a stressful time of change and then transition into a position where I experience a rough corporate change from a position on the management team. I used to think this was my muse creating a rich experience as a wellspring for my art. I tend to see this process of amplification and alteration as a sign that I have new lessons to learn, as opposed to repeating the same struggle again because I had not fully experienced and learned from the previous change events.

I have noticed that I have created rituals around change that themselves change over time. As I move through my experiences of change, I notice that I develop techniques to signal change to myself. During one phase in my life, I marked endings by consuming an Orange Julius drink. At another point, I marked endings by getting my hair cut. One interesting thing to note is that each of these rituals appear to involve things that I disliked previously. For example, I hated the taste of Orange Julius drinks because they reminded me of raw eggs, but this became the marker of a later ritual. I used to keep my hair very long, but cutting my hair became a ritual marker of later ritual endings.

My personal experience of change has involved changes in my community. I have experienced change as being characterized by a flux in my social network. I gain new friends, re-link with old friends or previous connections fade in importance. While these changes happen all the time, during periods of dramatic change the level of social network adjustment is comparably increased.

My experiences have led me to expect change to be characterized by larger themes and specific characteristics of process, pattern, ritual, and community.