Change, in so many ways, is hard. While I don’t usually go outside of my personal life for these narratives, the events of 2020 (actually, just five or six months of it) loom large over everything that happens nowadays.
Six months ago I was in and out of classrooms all over my district, helping teachers and teaching students a variety of science topics, mostly computer programming. Now I’m walking through those same schools, but the classrooms are empty of students and most doors are closed, with signs taped to them admonishing me, “Do not Disturb, Virtual Meeting in Progress,” or some variation on the theme.
Six months ago my family and I ate in restaurants without thinking about it, but now an outing along those lines is an exercise in logistics, largely passed over in favor of just eating at home. Just stopping by a fast food joint for an ice cream cone was a normal event, and now it’s a calculated risk.
Back in the days before, we saw friends more often, we visited family without a thought, and we popped in and out of our local businesses with a degree of regularity. Need something? We’d just run out and get it, but not now.
Change, in so many ways, is hard, but sometimes it’s a little bit funny, too.
First off, I have to admit I’m someone who doesn’t always do well with a break in my routine. I’m someone who goes out of his way to avoid such things, when I can. I might even be someone who stays in a harder situation when an easier one involves, gulp, doing something differently. I am, to use the cliche, a creature of habit.
So, about that funny example of change I mentioned.
Way back in 1982, I graduated high school and a few months later I reported to basic training as a recruit of the United States Marine Corps. It was 1982, so my hair was a little long, but I joined the Corps, and in the time it took for a pair of clippers to be dragged across my dome, it suddenly wasn’t. My hair was short; it was really short.
After basic training I was allowed to grow it out a bit, but until I retired from the military in 2004, my hair stayed “within regs.” Nearly 22 years is enough time, research shows, to establish a habit, and that’s what I did. My hair? Short.
Then came the pandemic, and suddenly the idea of going to a barber shop (sorry, stylist) lost its appeal. Within a few weeks, my hair was tickling the tops of my ears, and a few weeks after that it was starting to lie over them. Weeks turned into months, and my hair, alone with me in my house and unseen by others, continued to grow. After three or four months, it was at a length unseen in some 35 years.
And I liked it. Dad joke: It grew on me.
More importantly, my wife liked it.
And so, after a backyard trim by a neighbor who’s a stylist, I was ready to reenter my academic world. (True story: After several years as a hairstylist, my neighbor’s actually working as a dog groomer right now. I had my hair cut by a dog groomer. I love it.)
As it turns out, I’m not the only one for whom change comes hard. Just ask some of my co-workers. “Tim, is that you?”