Jan 12, 2008

Maybe the grass isn't greener on the other side

Today we talked about CHANGE in my conversation class. It was a hit. We went from discussing what we would change of our physical appearance in a free makeover to social and political change to what is so hard about changing. Why people do a lot of TALKING about change, but very little actual DOING. All the participants in the conversation talked about how terrible things are in Peru in general. The plight of the oppressed poor, the over-taxed middle class middle class, the greedy upper class, the uneducated, and the revolutionary students. We covered it all, I guess. Now it was time to go out and change the world from the safety of our classroom.

They were all for change, they said. Change was what Peru and the whole world needed. My question to them was, "Are YOU willing to sacrifice in order to bring about change?" Absolutely, they affirmed. Okay. I said, "In order to effect a change for the better, you must board an airplane bound for parts unknown. You must leave behind your life as you now know it. We don't know where we are going and we don't know what we'll do when we get there. All we know is that the world will be changed. Let's go right now."

Only two were willing to make that kind of change. Only two were willing to exchange the comfort of the known and familiar (no matter how miserable they thought it was) for a better, but uncertain future. Aha. Now we understood, hypothetically speaking, why those poor people in the Andes don't do something different than what they always do in the winter: witness their children and elders freezing to death for lack of a heat source in the house. Change is so scary that most people here would rather die in their beds than take the plunge and buy a stove to put in the house. The two who were willing to give up everything to effect a change called the others cowards.

To those two, I said "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." They paused to ponder that. They hadn't thought of it before. They asked for clarification. Okay, I said.

"Imagine that I am in my modest home. My husband is a mechanic. I have a dog that barks all night. We live modestly, always on a budget. My husband walks to work to save a little bit more money through the month. I take care of my own house and yard.

The house next door is larger. The husband wears a suit to work. He takes a bus to work. The wife sits by the window until just before her husband comes home, but she never goes outside during the day. What a life of leisure she has, I think. How much more does he earn when he works at his job that requires a suit? I wonder. How nice to be able to ride the bus in comfort, instead of walking to scrape up that last dime. It must be great to be able to afford to hire someone to do the yard work.

I dream about what it must be like to live in that house next door, even though I've never been inside. I WISH, I WISH I could have a life like that. The more I wish, the less shiny my own little home seems. It looks almost shabby to me.

One day, I get my nerve up to knock on the door of the house next door. I've made a pie and I take it over to offer to the neighbor lady who lives in that big house that I dream about living in. The door opens. The husband pushes past me with a hurried and tense look on his face. I hear him shout to the driver that he has to get all the way across town by 8 am...could he step on it please? Wow - I'm glad my husband only has to walk 10 blocks to work. I see the wife coming to the door. She's got a black eye and an ugly yellow bruise on her cheek from some other day. She whispers that she never has company. She tells me that she ran into the bathroom door in the middle of the night last night. She's clumsy that way. I see a little tear travel the length of her cheek.

I find out, when I wake up at 2 am, that my dog is barking all night because he hears them fighting next door. She says too loudly that he isn't living up to his potential because he in only a receptionist at an office. The bus costs too much, but he works a long way from the house. The house is too expensive to keep. They fight about money, or the lack of it. She cries about broken promises and abandoned dreams. I hear a crash and I hear her high-pitched scream. A door slams and the lawn mower starts up. I peek out the window and see the husband pushing the mower around at 3 am.

My modest little house with my jeans-clad husband looks pretty good to me now."

My little group of conversationalists look at me. They are still willing to sacrifice to make their changes, but now they think about going into change with open eyes, at least on paper.


Wooly Works said...

It's always easy to say you'd do this or that when it's all just an academic exercise. The real test is actually following through when action is called for. You know all about that, don't you? I wonder if the two who said they would embrace change would actually get on the plane. I bet you would find that one of the shrinking vines in the room is the one with real resolve and real courage when it comes to exacting change rather than the ones who crow about it.

The grass is greener...it reminds me of the old exercise of putting your most pressing problems on a bit of paper and throwing it into a hat with 10 other people's slips. Most people are relieved to have their own problems back when they compare with what they draw out of the hat. How does that bring change?

Kathleen said...

I've had my times when I wonder what in God's green earth I was doing when I made changes in my life. Every change I've made has been a real LIFE CHANGER, and each one has had consequences to be paid. Each change has seemed quite drastic to me, except for the last few years, and those changes were just the natural fallout from previous changes. I've grown with each change, learned with each change, and have not regretted any of them...well most of them.

Maybe that's part of it? Live your life and make your decisions with no regrets. Be very sure of what you're doing when you make your change. Commit to it. Then live it. Heh, great words from someone who's talked a lot about change in an academic way all day today. Made a great conversation, though, and made me think a lot. I wonder what the students thought, really.

Kathleen said...

I guess a lot of this came from the popular mantra I've been hearing here in Lima lately - that any change is better than what is going on now. Really? Any change? I wonder how much thought has gone into that. That was the idea that got us where we are right NOW. And now we want something else. Whatever this is, it's not good enough. Is the grass greener on the other side? How many other sides are there?

Anonymous said...

I have also made quite a few very drastic changes in my life and all of them have led me to the wonderful life I have now. There is nothing wrong with making a change in your life. If you are not happy with something then alter it. As for grass being greener, it was for me. But only after 6 years of having to be someone's scivvy.

Crystal xx

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

We upped sticks and left everything down South and moved to our village in Scotland and started up our self catering business. Never done anything like it before. very different way of life. HS still worked in TV I managed the business on my own. Now HS has given up his 'safe' job to follow his photography career . . . so yes we have made a few big changes over the year and life may be hard sometimes - but we are happy.