It has been something of an interesting year – if I were to tot up my scores according to the Life Change Index, by the time the end of the year comes around, I’ll be nudging 250 points and – if the theory is to be believed – 50% chance of stress-related illness occurring some time in the near future. However, I firmly believe that experience can be a great driver for becoming more adept at handling change, so in some ways big life changes, if they occur frequently enough, can actually make the process less stressful and far easier to accommodate. That’s what I think anyway, whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but it seems to be the case for me.
One of the more unexpected changes that I’ve had to adjust to this year is that of becoming a lot less settled and far more mobile than ever previously. In the past month I’ve both purchased moved house, but prior to that I’ve have had to get to grips with my work role becoming less centralised and a lot more spread out – where, not so long ago, most of my time I was in a fixed location, travelling at most around 50 miles on a busy week, my new responsibilities mean that I’m all over the place and easily clocking up hundreds of miles a week and many hours of time spent on the move. Throw in overnight stays – anything from one to four nights a week – means that I’ve had to get used to the fact that I’m no longer a fixed asset; and routinely finding myself in familiar, comforting, homely surroundings isn’t something I can rely on any more.
That’s possibly one of the more difficult things I’ve had to adjust to: I’ve always cherished the concept of ‘home’ – somewhere that I can set down roots, feel safe and secure, and that I can tailor to meet my own tastes, routines and needs. If Maslow is to be believed, it’s one of the fundamental security/safety needs that we all have and without which we can struggle to maintain an even keel in life. Even so, my new routines are by no means unique, and many, many people across the world face exactly the same challenge in their day-to-day lives and manage perfectly well.
As I said at the beginning, I’m pretty adaptable, and it’s one of the characteristics of the human race that we’re able to accommodate even the most far-reaching of changes to our environment, surroundings and circumstances. When it comes to the less world-shattering things and the smaller, personal challenges that we’re called upon to meet, we’ll often develop a coping strategy that substitutes one norm for another. Those of us who’ve become accustomed to spending time in SL will no doubt be familiar with this form of substitution – the virtual world, after all, is envisioned to be a ‘second life’. Many will have taken advantage of SL to offset needs and gaps that the real world cannot accommodate; whether that’s by the simple expedient of providing an environment, activity or opportunity that doesn’t present itself in RL, or in a more complex manner that can compensate for, or ease the process of change.
I have a friend inworld who is happy to say that SL feels more like home than any real world place: Frequent relocations, not only regionally, but also transatlantic on more than one occasion, have robbed them of the stability and permanence of a place to call home in RL, whereas the place they’ve set down their roots in SL has remained relatively constant throughout. Whilst real world friends and relationships, locations, activities, pursuits and employment have constantly followed a process of breakaway and renewal, inworld locations, friends and activities have endured and, in doing so, SL has substituted a virtual equivalent for ‘home’ that fulfils all the requirements that the concept embodies. It works extremely well for the person concerned and, over time, has provided them with a stability and consistency that RL simply hasn’t been able to furnish.
I’m fortunate, in that the changes in my own life are not such that they demand a real upheaval, I simply need to adjust to the new regime and find a new routine in which to become established. Even so, it’s good to know that, no matter what the changes in the real world, SL and my friends and familiar places will still be there.
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
David Bowie – Changes