Is change as good as a holiday

by Craig Nudelman

When I was 14 years old, I moved from King David Linksfield to Crawford College.

The night before school started, I was really nervous. I was worried that I wouldn’t do well at school, I wouldn’t make any friends, I wouldn’t get on with the teachers… There were lots of ‘I wouldn’t’ ideas floating through my head that night. But that fresh start was the best thing that could have happened to me (I think). Even though my school days weren’t the best years of my life, changing schools was excellent for me. And since then, most of my fresh starts have been great for me, even though a bit scary at first.

On 1 September I am changing my career, yet again! I am leaving the education sector and going back to my roots; that of a Jewish professional at the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies. Now, those of you who have read my column for the past few years may think that this is a step back — I am going back to the same place I was at five years ago! But, like everything in life, it, like me, has changed. And change is a good thing.

Change can either be forced upon or initiated by us. For example, when I was retrenched from Herzlia last year, I was forced to change. In the months leading up to my date of unemployment, I was dreading what was coming next. I kept on thinking what I was going to do. How would we pay for those school fees and medical aid! Luckily, I found work as a learning designer at the Valenture Institute, but every day before that call to say I had a new job was petrifying. My predictable way of life — walking up and down the stairs between the then-Middle and High School (now the Junior High and Senior High) and going to class according to the bell — was now gone. And the question became, how was I going to embrace this change when I really didn’t want to?!

There are many different blogs, books, and podcasts that are dedicated to showing why change is good (which you don’t really want to read or hear about when you’re being forced to change). But in retrospect that sudden change has been good for me.

These are just four good things about change, according to Amber Rose Monaco who wrote about it in the HuffPost:

The first is that you’re pushed out of your comfort zone. My daily routine — getting up, going to school, sorting out my classroom before the next group of kids came in, marking, writing reports, and other tasks that teachers do which go unnoticed and under-appreciated — changed when I moved to my new position (where my office became my study just off my bedroom). Although I may have been comfortable in my tracksuit pants, it was very different from my school environment.

You also get to experience more. I was introduced to a whole new idea of what teaching is. Creating content for an online school is very different (and extremely challenging) to teaching in a brick-and-mortar school. I met new people and made new friends. I was also able to spend more time with my Gabi (we’re with each other nearly 24 hours a day, which has really been awesome) and my two girls.

Another is that you find out who you are and what you’re capable of. Now, when I was a teacher there were deadlines, it’s true. But at Valenture it was on a different level! I hit the ground running, creating a curriculum for a subject which was starting in January and had to be made as soon as was humanly possible. It was hectic, but it did show me that I was able to do it — and do it well. I learned on the job, and although I made mistakes along the way, I grew and became a good learning designer, if I do say so myself.

The last reason that Monaco gives for change being good, is that you can be flexible and adaptable and embrace chaos. Change is chaotic and really throws your world upside down and inside out. But it prepares you to handle change well in the future, and, as Monaco says, “you are armed with more confidence as you walk into the next uncomfortable position.”

With Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur coming up, it’s also a time of renewal, change, and being in an ‘uncomfortable space’. We get the opportunity to look at what we’ve done in the past year and see areas for growth and improvement to take into the next year. As Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestinian Mandate Israel, said, “the human tendency to cling desperately to old ways and ancient habits is the sign of a spiritual malaise.”

When I was pushed into change, I really did not want to change my habits. It was comfortable. In fact, I think I could have stayed at Herzlia for a long time, growing as a teacher, becoming a better educator, maybe even becoming a leader in a senior management position. But I realise now that that would have stunted my growth as an individual. I would have become discontented with my life, and maybe even resentful that I’d spent too many years being at one place of employment, teaching the same thing year after year.

Now, as I leave Valenture and make my way to the Board, I feel like I’m once again embracing change and beginning a new chapter of my life. How appropriate that this is happening just before Rosh Hashanah.

I hope your 5782 will be meaningful and that you change for the better. As Heraclitus, the great Greek philosopher, said, “Change is the only constant in life.”

Shana Tova U’metukah!

• Published in the PDF edition of the September 2021 issue – Get the PDF here.

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