Embracing Change as a 7 Year-old
When I was 7 so much change happened. I traveled by ship from Sydney Australia to Genoa in Italy, because of my father’s work. He had been posted to Athens, Greece for a 5-year term. I only remember parts of that long 6-week journey.
It was the “old days”, when life aboard a luxury liner in first class was still akin to what you read about in novels at the beginning of the last century and what we see in movies, such as the Titanic: opulence, elegance, indulgence, style and sophistication.
A Princess in my own Mind
I was 7 going on 37 – full of romance and imagination. I was a princess in my own mind afloat this luxury liner setting out in the Pacific Ocean, crossing the Southern Ocean, the Indian Ocean, up the Suez Canal into the glistening Mediterranean Sea. I was 7, which I have since learned is a significant age in human development. It sets the psychological thermostat for how you internalize beliefs about yourself and your relationship to others and the world.
I could do Anything
So that was how “change” started for me. I was princess, aboard a luxury liner, afloat on the widest and deepest oceans, discovering a plethora of amazing realities and an abundant, cornucopia of choices. I believed I could do anything. I was Eliza Doolittle of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion aka My Fair Lady. You know the story. Professor Higgins made a wager that he could transform a young street flower seller from her lowly beginnings to an elegant sophisticated princess, and more importantly have English aristocracy believe it to be true. We know the outcome of the story – he won his wager.
That's the magic.
When you believe it, you see it. I believed I could swim across the pool on board that liner, and I did – I almost drowned, but I told myself I would do it and I practiced and practiced by swimming from corner to corner in that pool, lengthening the distance every time until I could swim the distance without having to reach out and grab the side of the pool. I swallowed a lot of water in the process, but I did not give up.
My Imagination was Invincible
My love of exotic foods happened in the magnificent dining room of that liner – I learned to love pepper and other spices. I relished experimenting with food, especially if it were grown up food. The pepper mill was a new discovery for me as was Parmesan cheese. I would ask the waiter to give me copious amounts, as it was so sophisticated. I wasn't satisfied until my mashed potatoes were totally bespeckled with black pepper. I learned myself into what I believed myself to be and desired to be.
Fast track to now – decades later. Here I am. When people ask me my nationality, I say I'm a global citizen. My love of diversity and charting new territory has continued to grow. I consider myself very privileged to be alive today. In fact, I say, we are the privileged generation. My start in life was unique, just as all of us have had our own unique beginnings. I've been through lots of change. Just as all of you will have been through lots of change. Some of the changes I engineered myself, and some I would not have engineered for myself. The common thread in all these changes: I faced them and embraced them.
There are many other facets to embracing change generatively, and I'd like to name one: the anticipatory principle – cultivating the ability to hold a vision of the future that we want for ourselves, others and the world at large puts us in the starting gate. To embrace change we want to be part of is to see it first in our imaginations. I did as a 7 year old, Henry Higgins did it for Eliza Doolittle and you can do it for you.
Let me conclude here with a favorite quote about what change means to me:
“I embrace emerging experience. I participate in discovery. I am a butterfly. I am not a butterfly collector, I want the experience of the butterfly.” William Stafford. 1914- 1993.