Learning to Live with Change

It sometimes surprises people to learn that I don’t deal well with change.

I enjoy new experiences, and meeting new people, a lot – but at heart I’m happiest in safe and familiar surroundings. Unfortunately, “change” is one of the things that life does best.

When I started reef-keeping back in December 2010, I considered my reef as “something to be designed and maintained,” unchanging except for coral growth – consistent and comforting in its regularity.

Boy, was I wrong.

The corals and the fish do grow from tiny, skinny babies into adults I love to see. Cygnus offers a striking case in point:

(Baby Cygnus, July 2011)
(Grown-up Cygnus, April 2012)

But keeping a reef involves more than merely watching growth – some colonies flourish, others die, and still others compete for space with surprising results. Watching the fish and corals has taught me a few important lessons about change.

Change can be stressful. Back in 2010 I acquired a yellow finger leather, a gorgeous coral that I just knew would look perfect in my tank. But it wasn’t happy. A combination of factors (including some other corals that sent out chemical responses to the leather) conspired to keep the coral sickly and unhappy.

Despite my love for the leather, I ended up taking it back and exchanging it for a set of blue-green palythoa corals – which have thrived.

Leading to lesson #2: Sometimes, the changes work out better than you expected.

I like blue better than yellow, and the tiny group of palythoas is now a giant, happy colony and a centerpiece of my tank. Embracing change instead of fighting led to a better outcome – on many levels – than I would have experienced otherwise:

(And yes, that’s the same colony of blue palythoas – six months and huge growth later.)

I’ve learned plenty more from the fishtank, but we’ll leave the rest of it for another day.

What about you? Have you learned unexpected lessons from a hobby you enjoy? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear your story.