The Struggle of Change

This article originally appeared as the President’s Message in the January/February 2022 issue of Archival Outlook.

I have always been suspicious of resolu­tions timed with the new year. Why should an arbitrary calendar determine my self-reflection and decision to eat better/drink less/exercise more/read more/watch every Denzel film/change my life be tied to a specific day?

Making the decision to change is easy and sticking to it is hard. Culturally speaking, the new year is a convenient cut-off date to sweep out the old and commit to new habits. It’s the pressure we put on ourselves that is inconvenient, cruel, and often counterproductive.

Resolutions as a concept are in conflict with other maxims for change. “One day at a time” has long been used in twelve-step programs; it recognizes that the decision to change isn’t the last step—it’s one we must make every day. It also recognizes the struggle of change in each new day.

I am as suspicious of maxims and daily affirmations as I am of resolutions. This is born of my own cynicism and experience. I am beholden to the past. [1] Yet, this morning as I put on my shoes, I had an unkind thought about other people. I had to stop myself and actually said aloud, “I choose to be kind today.”

Ack! That’s not true—I just lied to you out of embarrassment! What I actually said was, “I choose to create abundance today.” At forty-two, I am still scared to fully share all that is in my heart.

I learned the language of abundance during a multiyear educational experience with the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) program at DePaul University. The cynical side of me laughs it off as having made me a hippie. The side of me that still fears judgment and ridicule would tell you that it remains the single most transformative experience of my life.

The transformation that I experienced was largely about me embracing truths about myself and learning how to articulate my beliefs and put them into practice. I truly love other people, and I believe that we all have gifts and abundance and that together we can thrive and share the wealth of the Earth. [2]

My struggle, my opportunity for change, is to stay connected to that vision. It is hard. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and there are some days when even seeing my own gifts feels impossible (I call it “The Grey Veil’’). There are days when I am frustrated and angry with others and can’t see their gifts. Those are the days when I stop putting on my shoes and say aloud that I choose abundance. I say that I choose it so that I must do it.

I do not encourage you to tend to resolutions if they only make you feel guilty when you snag a cookie from the breakroom, or sleep through your alarm, or just can’t find the energy for what you promised yourself you would do. I do not encourage you to hang a farmhouse-chic aphorism over your kitchen sink. But I do wish for you to find a path to the changes that you want for yourself, and I wish that you find abundance within you so that you can recognize it in those around you.

And I will encourage you to explore Denzel’s full catalog. It is its own reward.


[1] My eternal thanks to a colleague who gave me these words.

[2] Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called this the “beloved community.” I think there is no lovelier phrase in my native tongue.

3 responses to “The Struggle of Change

  1. Courtney, I love that ABCD has been transformational for you! I discovered it last year during an online conference and have been trying to weave its principles into many of my MLIS school projects! It’s given me a lens to reevaluate how I appreciate others. I hope to implement many ABCD programs in my future tenure as a librarian that allow others to recognize and share their own gifts.

    • Thank you so much, Erin! I appreciate your comment. I really believe that community development skills can revolutionize libraries, archives, and museums and will never stop advocating that it be taught in our grad schools and by our professional orgs. Organizing is a skill as well as a passion!

  2. Pingback: Should we burn the discards | Archives and the Old Mole

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