Change happens

I subscribe to Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, which I often don’t have time to read. But this morning’s missive on Transitions spoke to me.

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But the mystery of transformation more often happens not when something new beginsbut when something old falls apart. The pain and chaos of something old falling apart invite the soul to listen at a deeper level, and sometimes force the soul to go to a new place. Most of us would never go to new places in any other way…

Transformation always includes a disconcerting reorientation. It can either help people to find new meaning or it can cause people to close down and slowly turn bitter. The difference is determined precisely by the quality of our inner life, our practices, and our spirituality. Change happens, but transformation is always a process of letting go, and living in the confusing, shadowy, transitional space for a while. Eventually, we are spit up on a new and unexpected shore…

After two decades teaching in a public school, I feel the changes that students experience profoundly. April is huge month of transition. Just as flowers burst into bloom outdoors, seniors come alive again.

This Class of 2023 has already faced “confusing, shadowy, transitional space” that started at the end of their 9th grade year and extended into their entire 10th grade year. “Change happens when something old falls apart…” Well, their worlds fell apart. Now we have the greatest teen mental health crisis we’ve ever faced. But I’m not going there.

We had a job fair at school this week. It was a great real-life connection to what we were doing in class – researching career options, creating resumes and cover letters, and preparing for “job interviews.” I thought students would be enthusiastic about the job fair. Instead, a collective meh! greeted the announcement.

I know that many are finalizing their college choice by May 1st (tomorrow is Decision Day). Many are already working or have summer jobs lined up. Once we got downstairs to the fair, I was glad to see that students went from table to table and talked to the recruiters. Afterwards I realized they were just collecting free pens, candy, lanyards, and key chains. Meh!

With just one month left of school, I feel the tide rising and lifting all ships. Senior Assassin and Promposals are in the air. In English class, I hear excited chatter as girls show each other their prom dresses. “Ms. Sullivan, which color do you like?” D. showed me a muted pink suit he’s about to purchase. Kids in team jerseys announce that varsity sports are moving to season’s end. Chronically absent students are returning and asking what assignments they’re missing. 

The rhythm of a school year forces change, ready or not. For seniors in the home stretch, a feeling of anticipation and hope fills the air. That collective meh! will soon turn into rah! as they reach the end of their K-12 education.

I can’t wait to hear which dress color A. has selected for prom, what choice P. has made about college, and if Z. will change jobs.