This week we were asked to think about a time when unexpected change happened in our lives either personally or professionally and reflect on  the range of emotions and stages we experienced: 

My early years were full of regular and unexpected changes. From the age of 5, my family moved every year- – usually without a lot of forewarning. (Suffice to say we were not popular with landlords and my mum always struggled to pay the rent. I never realised at that time why we were always moving- my Mom tried to make it “an adventure”. New houses, neighborhoods, and schools were a constant- so I have become very good at managing unexpected change. 

I tend to become very calm and start to think of ways of coping- making the best of it, etc. This can be exciting and I get a lot of creative thinking going. At the other end of the spectrum, it has led to resignation and feelings of powerlessness. I even managed to combine these: as a child, I felt resigned to always feeling out of place but I was very creative in avoiding the terror of always being “the new girl”: I simply started wagging school and became very inventive on places to hide and making up lies. 

More recently my work life had a huge jolt in January 2019. The organisation was meeting for an all-staff conference and right smack in the middle of one of our workshops there was a media release announcing the disestablishment of Industry Training Organisations. It was surreal to be sitting in a ballroom with 400 other people hearing that we were eventually going to be out of a job. The CEO high-tailed it back to Wellington to meet with the Minister and other government reps. I ended up focusing on those around me who were completely dismayed and became immediately anxious. Something kicked in that allowed me to put my own situation very quickly into perspective- out of everyone in the room, I probably had better chances of securing employment in new entities, and anyway I have been thinking about leaving anyway, so this had many silver linings for me and in fact I sort of felt relieved!

Since then I have stayed in ‘soldier on’ mode and I am mucking in to ensure that we have a good transition and are able to preserve our learning and assessment model. So at work, I manage by focusing on supporting other to cope. If anything the thing I do less well is to put my own needs first, so I am not so good at avoiding situations that stress me out. Perhaps that is why I am so resilient- I’ve had lots of practice!

At the end of the day what carries me through and which I am beginning to trust that I should just follow my heart. The leadership strategies we were shown mirror what I do- contain anxiety, support people, be real, be available. I am very good at crying when I need to as I have learned it’s a great way to relieve anxiety and recalibrate!

When asked what have I learned’- feels very hard to answer as my head is not in the space of solidifying.  It occurred to me that  I get on with it but this accompanied by an almost manic energy. I struggle to relax trust that “I’ve got this”- which is weird because my experience is always that I do have this. As above, I had a solution for getting myself away from the terror or being new, being bullied, the shame of having to rotate 2 sets of clothing, etc. I was in fact very powerful and no one could ever make me attend school regularly. Eventually, I just fell through the cracks, which was salvation for me and my family, or else I would have probably been taken into care.

Shelly’s advice:

  • Recognise the thing you want and allowing it to have strength.
  • Think through possibilities work out the costs to give the courage to take the steps
  • Work out who your people are- curate a tribe.
  • Learn how to show up vulnerably.
  • You can’t have strength and impact without displeasing some people.
  • Once you show people you are imperfect there is no way to go but up.
  • You have to know yourself first- warts and all.
  • You are to the world what you present to the world- the world only knows what they see.

Takeway: It’s not about changing first and then becoming.  I just have to show up and then just be.