Tag Archives: you can change

How To Survive A Big Move (Like Leaving for College!)

How To Survive A Big Move:

4 Tips to Make Sure You Don’t Fear the Change, but Embrace It!

By Maddie Pelkey

When people ask me, “Maddie, where are you from?” I never exactly know how to respond. I’ve lived in four different states and five different cities, ranging from upstate New York all the way down to Florida. Because of when these moves took place, I attended seven different schools from kindergarten to my senior year. It sounds like a lot, but moving around this much has made me way more resilient and has opened doors for new opportunities and friendships. Being a bit of an urban nomad, if you will, has changed my life for the better.

That being said, digging up your roots and moving somewhere new can be really tough. You leave behind people, places, and things that you love with all your heart. Some people are really good at adjusting to their first big move. Some people, like I was, are not so good at the whole transition thing. Until junior year of high school, I’d spent my most memorable years in the wintery hinterlands of Michigan and New York. Moving to Florida, the land of palmetto bugs and mosquitos galore, meant I was in for some culture shock.

So, whether you, a family member, or a friend is gearing up for a big move, here are the best pieces of advice I can offer to make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. Don’t dawdle when it comes to unpacking:

This is really important. When I moved to New York in eighth grade, it took me weeks to find the courage to get my bedroom unpacked. For most of summer, I slept in an abyss of ugly brown moving boxes. At least subconsciously, I thought that if I didn’t unpack, the move wasn’t real and I could go back to Michigan. My mom ended up unpacking my room for me, but to this day I wish I could’ve found the courage to do it myself.

Once you’ve moved, you’ve moved. No going back. Get unpacked. You will feel infinitely better when your new house is a new home. Plus, it’s fun to put together a new room! If you’re having a really hard time, consider treating yourself to some cute new picture frames or wall decals to motivate yourself to get your room together.

2. Have something on hand to remind you of home:

Sometimes the moving grief will hit you out of nowhere. To help ease the sadness, I like to have something in my purse or on my keyring that reminds me of where I came from. At the beginning of my move to Florida, I carried a tiny rubber duck around everywhere I went, whether it was in my purse or my backpack. Now, the same duck sits on the dashboard of my boyfriend’s car; somehow, it’s miraculously managed not to melt on those 100+ degree days, so I see it whenever we drive around town together.

The thing to be careful about with this tip is that your sentimental item shouldn’t cause your grief. Pay attention to your feelings and your thoughts: make sure that your item of choice isn’t making you dawdle on your sadness; rather, the purpose of this exercise is to remind you that home is something you can carry with you, not something you’ve left behind.

3. Accept that friendships will be fluid for a while:

The harsh truth: some people are really good at staying in contact over distances, but some people, like me, are absolutely atrocious at keeping in touch. You will have old friends who expect you to text every day, and old friends who are okay with a single snapchat every six months. It varies from person to person. While it’s good to maintain friendships, keep in mind that you ought to make new friends, too. Don’t spend all of your social hours trying to keep in touch with people far away.

That being said, your new friendships could be sketchy at first, too. Sometimes the people you first meet when you move won’t be your friends a year from now, let alone six weeks from now. That’s okay! It can take a long time to find the people you’re really going to mesh with, but it’s worth it. Trust me when I say you’ll want the time to find your new self before you make super close friends, anyway. (See next point!)

4. Accept that YOU may be fluid for a while:

You know that typical Hollywood-esque cliche: Moving is great because it gives you the opportunity to completely rebuild yourself? Well, glib as it may sound, that’s not entirely untrue. You will grow and change as a result of relocating, whether you’re thirty miles or a thousand miles away from your old home. I am a vastly different person in Florida than I was in New York, and from New York than I was in Michigan, and from Michigan than I was in Massachusetts. Embrace the change! Be comfortable in your skin. This is the perfect time to try new things and meet new people. Besides, keeping yourself busy will distract yourself from those pesky “I wish I were home” thoughts until you finally come to think of your new place as home, too.

Above all, moving is change. And people say change is scary, but it opens up worlds of new opportunity. So embrace it, and try to stay optimistic about what lies in store!

Maddie Pelkey

Reposted on June 30, 2017

Literature, Leadership, and Change

By Stan Pelkey

It’s not difficult to find reflections on leaders and leadership. Northouse (2010) notes, “Bookstore shelves are filled with popular books about leaders and advice on how to be a leader” (p. 1). Besides those popular books, an extensive body of social science research on leadership exists. And we could cast our net even more widely and consider how Western literature has reflected—explicitly or implicitly—upon human motivation, behavior, and leadership for millennia. Our collective obsession with heroes and heroic stories, evident in our mass media culture for over a century, as well as in traditional historical narratives, points to wide-spread fascination in Western society with social organization, leadership, and the exercise of power in its various forms, including referent, expert, legitimate, reward-based, and coercive power.

Six years ago, I began my journey into academic leadership when I became an “area” or department chair in the School of Music at Western Michigan University. At the same time, I had the opportunity to join a year-long, university-wide leadership training program. I became so interested in the topics we discussed and the readings we completed that I followed up on that experience by taking some formal coursework in higher education administration and leadership. As I took those courses, I kept turning to literature and media culture for insights, which is in keeping with my personal vision of the humanities as a repository of collective memories and wisdom, an ongoing conversation about both the abstract and the highly practical. Now, years later, I’m taking some time to do what I did not have time to do back then: share a few thoughts about leadership and change through the lens of some personally beloved literature and media.

In this first blog around the topic of leadership and literature, I’m going to focus on “CHANGE.” Yes, I know that can be a terrifying word. It has often been for me as well. In the past few years, however, I’ve challenged myself to re-assess my desire for stasis and to re-imagine “change” as a deep, moral commitment to constantly try to improve processes and products to better meet other people’s needs.

For example, Northouse (2010) writes that change does not need to be “disruptive”; it can mean improving existing functions (p. 48). Rost (1993) notes that change should be linked to meeting people’s real needs (p. 113). Senge (1990) argues that small, incremental changes can be the “leverage” needed to start to transform entire systems (p. 64). These authors helped me gain a new vision of what “change” could mean in higher education (and other organizations generally).

Faculty members are humans, and like so many other humans, some react negatively to proposed change because it threatens their sense of identity, status, or “turf.” Change can also seem to threaten the integrity of academic disciplines. Change is less threatening, however, when academic disciplines are understood to be tools that can be used to solve problems that are important to individual students and to society more broadly rather than as sacrosanct bodies of processes and tightly guarded and bounded collections of knowledge.

I have come to believe that if faculty members were given more time and resources so that they really could continually grow as scholars and teachers, many (though not necessarily all) of the problems that we try to solve with endless committee meetings about curricula, scheduling, technology, and policy would be eliminated.




There would be a sudden, massive development in human capital across our academic institutions, which would lead in turn to collective, “transformational” leadership at every level of those institutions.

That transformational leadership would be consistent with the democratic ideals espoused by the educator Lyman Bryson in his classic text, The Next America: Prophecy and Faith (1952). Bryson argued, “Any process is democratic that enables those who take part to learn by choices made in freedom and to test new choices, while knowledge and experience grow. Its purpose is to develop human beings as ends in themselves” (p. 93) and to enable them to become all that they can be (p. 240). Democracy and democratic processes are not limited to government or the state, but should permeate every facet of social and cultural life, including society’s schools. Therefore, “The teacher is the one who enlarges our freedom by enlarging our knowledge of possible choice and likely consequence” (p. 142), which is the chief means of individual development (p. 144). If Bryson is right, then not only should our universities be run as democratically as possible, but academic leaders should work to “enlarge the freedom” of faculty, and every faculty member should do the same for students. “Change”—understood as growth—would become second nature in such an environment.

The constant transformation of individuals takes hard work and deep commitment. Too often, we become obsessed with our past accomplishments; this can make us complacent or fearful of change. It can also lead to a kind of emotional paralysis if previously mastered skills become associated too closely with our personal identities.

In his short story, “The Leader of the People,” which eventually formed part of the Red Pony stories, John Steinbeck introduces us to Grandfather. He is Mrs. Tiflin’s father, Jody’s grandpa, and one of the banes of Carl Tiflin’s life. Grandfather annoys Carl because he dwells constantly on his experience leading a wagon train across the country to California in the later nineteenth century. Mrs. Tiflin tries to explain her father to her husband Carl (and to the reader):

“He led a wagon train clear across the plains to the coast, and when it was finished, his life was done. It was a big thing to do, but it didn’t last long enough. Look… it’s as though he was born to do that, and after he finished it, there wasn’t anything more for him to do but to think about it and talk about it. If there’d been any farther west to go, he’d have gone….” (p. 213)


This explanation fails to diffuse the tension, and Grandfather eventually overhears Carl complain that he is sick of hearing the same stories over and over again. Grandfather later admits to Jody that it’s not even the long-ago events themselves that matter most to him. It was the process of “westering”:

“It was a whole bunch of people made into one big crawling beast. And I was the head…. Every man wanted something for himself, but the beast that was all of them wanted only westering.” (pp. 224–225)


While Grandfather articulates that amazing feeling of a being part of a process that moves toward a common goal and shared vision, he has become trapped in the memory of his own past accomplishments. More to the point: he fully identifies himself with them. He may have had the rights skills and correct understanding for that moment in his life, but he does not seem to be a leader generally, as he has been unable to translate those abilities into problem-solving skills for new experiences, challenges, and opportunities.

In my work as a Director of Music at numerous churches in six states during the past two decades, I have witnessed this “paralysis in the past” many times, not only in the oft-mocked “we’ve never done it that way before” attitudes voiced by many church members, but also in the tendency for some to be unable to face new challenges without recourse to nostalgic comparisons to “back then.” It’s not simply that some are unwilling to try new approaches to solve new problems; some are unable to face the very existence of the new problems because of devotion to systems, processes, and products of the past. But let’s be honest and fair: such devotion to past systems, processes, and products can be found among members of all human organizations!

I spent years falling prey to this attitude! But then I realized that this attitude was strongly tied to a paralyzing association of my current skills with my personal and professional identity. I was afraid that I could not continue to “grow my skill set” and keep expanding “who I am” personally and professionally. Against my best “preachments” that who I am is more important than what I am or what I do, in “practice” (emotionally, and in terms of some behaviors and attitudes), too often in the past, I comfortably slid into a definition of myself that was strongly tied to “what I do,” “what I know,” and ultimately “what I am most comfortable knowing and doing.”

Now I know that this attitude is the change killer in me! My remedy: embrace the insights I gained from Birnbaum, Fullan, Rost, Schlechty, and Senge, among others, and challenge myself to master new skills and build new understanding at a faster pace. Instead of worrying that change diminishes past accomplishments (and so threatens established identity), I try to see calls for change as opportunities to grow, to become a more richly textured person.

Being a leader means being on a constant quest to expand the self. True leaders will likewise inspire and make possible the expansion of other selves. They will act accordingly in relation to all those around them, whether that means actually contributing something of value or just getting out of the way!


A Reading List

Birnbaum, R. (1991). How colleges work: The cybernetics of academic organization and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bryson, L. (1952). The next America: Prophecy and faith. New York: Harper and Brothers.

Fullan, M. (2001). Understanding Change. In Leading in a culture of change (31–49). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Northouse, P.G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Rost, J. C. (1993). The nature of leadership. In Leadership for the twenty-first century (98–128). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Schlechty, P.C. (2007). Understanding the normative system. In Michael Fullan (Ed.), The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (2nd ed.) (221–237). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Senge, P. (1990). The laws of the fifth discipline. In The fifth discipline (57-67).
New York: Crown Business.

Steinbeck, J. (1995). The Leader of the People. In The long valley (209–226). New York: Penguin Books.