The Road to Being Just OK
I work in a world were people see significant change in a relatively short period of time (residential treatment program for teens). When I say “short period of time”, I’m still talking many grueling months of therapy and challenging residential living. But if you think about real life change, thinking of it in terms of years is more healthy and realistic. How long DOES it take to change? And what are you expecting the end result to be?
Personally change is slow process. Losing weight, gaining health, keeping my car clean (perhaps the most difficult change!), spending more quality time with my kids, all are changes that are positive and worth striving for. And these changes can start immediately. But how long does it actually take to make a lasting change? I can tell you that losing weight takes me a lot more time now that I’m in my 40’s than when in my 20’s. The old adage “it took a long time to put on, and will take at least that long to take off” rings true with me. It’s hard for me to drop the lbs., but the effects of weight loss (though in small increments), are well worth the effort even before reaching my ultimate goal. So it takes a long time to change, but if I have my mind straight on what the actual benefit is, I can enjoy the small benefits along the way.
My daughter has spent nearly 9 months in residential treatment (yep, a guy who has worked in residential for years has a kid there), and is getting ready to complete the program. She has experienced significant life change while in the program, and is excited for the next stage of her life. But who is this kid I’m getting back? She is awesome, funny, insightful (like super insightful), generous, kind, and so much more self-confident. And she’s not perfect. That’s OK though, I don’t want or need her to be perfect. I need her to be safe. I need her to feel a measure of peace in her life. I need her to be able to face the world and feel like she has people on her side. But I don’t need perfection.
I had to set my expectations for my daughter early in the process of residential treatment. It has been refreshing to me, and freeing to her, to not worry about her every move and emotion. She has ups and downs and makes mistakes, yet I’m still OK. A real turning point in our relationship happened when she revealed something very personal to me one night, something that in years past I would have worried about and lectured her on, but I chose a different route. I listened. I considered. I chilled out. And we connected. My expectations for her aren’t lower, they are just now seen through a more healthy lens.
You see, as much as she has changed, I’ve also had to change. And all it took me was 9 months to get here.