When I was little, my family had the same dinner every Sunday evening: steak, baked potatoes, peas, salad, and then ice cream with strawberries for dessert. It was such a constant in my life that I never thought to question it. Sunday was Steak Night.
One Sunday when I was five or six years old, my best friend asked what I was going to have for supper. I did not understand his question because I had never considered it was possible for anyone to have anything besides my family’s regular Sunday meal. We got into a fight when he said his family was having chicken and I refused to believe him.
I have not forgotten this argument because until my friend’s dinner question, it had never occurred to me that other families were not the same as mine. I was stunned and it shook my view of the world. I had assumed that everyone was like me and in those few minutes the world became a much more uncertain place. If you cannot be sure about Sunday dinner, what can you trust?
Looking back on it now, I am slightly surprised this upset me as much as it did. I knew that everybody was not the same. My friend was in a different class at school, he had older sisters and I did not, and we ate different lunches. Yet when one of the constants in my life was threatened, I was ready to fight for it rather than concede that it was not a constant after all.
Everything changes; we move to different houses, find new jobs, and grow older. Day becomes night, the earth spins around the sun and, over centuries, rocks erode and mountains form. Ironically, change is one of our few constants.
How we handle a change often depends upon how attached we are to whatever it is that is changing. If we alter something relatively inconsequential, like our dish soap or brand of paper towel, we quickly forget about it because there is no emotional impact. When there is a significant change, like moving to a different part of the county, the associated emotions can be quite mixed. We may enjoy our new surroundings, but also miss the friends we left behind. It may take us some time to adjust.
When a basic belief or an understanding of how the world works is questioned or threatened, often our response is to hang on to that belief with everything that we have. It is much easier to continue in the way in which we have become accustomed than to accommodate changes to our views of the world.
Sometimes, when the evidence against a long held belief is too great, we have no choice but to change; it is impossible to do otherwise. We remember these moments because they transform us and we see the world in a new way. The catalyst may be something as simple as a steak dinner, but the results last a lifetime.