Embracing Change

By Donna McCusker

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. John F. Kennedy

When my ophthalmologist said I could go blind, my mind raced with potential outcomes. I was living in a condominium at the top of a hill in Wappingers Falls, New York. If my sight worsened, I wouldn’t be able to drive – and nothing was in walking distance.

For several years, Wappingers and my condo there served a purpose. I taught in New York City, and commuted. It was a lovely place. Life had shifted for me though. Now, I was retired and having physical issues. The thought of losing my independence made the future look bleak.

My current situation triggered some old memories. Years ago, my grandmother lived with us after her husband died. We were young, Grandma was in good health, and was a tremendous help to Mom. She seemed happy. After the four of us moved out to start our own families, home had become an “empty nest,” and things changed.

My parents relocated, with Grandma, to a condominium. They worked, so she was often alone. One day when I visited her, she was staring out a window and looked incredibly sad. My parents’ place was beautiful and had ample space for her. It was hard for me to understand her feelings. Now I do.

Grandma had lived in Mt. Vernon, New York – a bustling city. Homes of friends and relatives lined her street, and several shops were close by. Rental income from a boarder helped pay her monthly bills. She didn’t feel dependent. Now, stores were too far away to walk to and she couldn’t drive. She may have felt like a bird in a gilded cage.

Life shifts and circumstances change. The looming alteration of my own life seemed radical. For several years, I drove to the South Bronx, taught full-time during the day and attended college at night. Living up on a hill with nothing in walking distance provided a welcome weekend respite. Now, I was retired, and it was isolating. My needs were different.

Normally I am an optimist, but suddenly my future looked bleak. The thought of losing my independence and having to completely rely on my daughters for the rest of my life scared me. My daughters are wonderful, but they all have their own lives.

My daughter, Tara, has a beautiful home with a large basement. She suggested remodeling it into a bedroom, so I could move in. Why did I feel such angst? It was always such a joy to spend time with her family, and I knew the space would be lovely.

Their home is also in Wappingers though, where transportation is a necessity. Tara and her husband both work and have busy lives. Kyra, their daughter, was in high school, had a job and social activities. Moving in would be an imposition.

Loss of one’s independence happens one step at a time. Like walking a tightrope, you can easily lose your footing and slip – and it’s all downhill from there.

Just as I was mulling all this over in my mind, my sister, Deborah called. She said she was moving to South Carolina, and thought I should too. Her friend, Kathy, who lived there for several years, said she found the perfect apartment for her.

Debbie told me a park was across the street from the complex, and that we would be able to “walk to everything.” A pool, gym, recreational center, bookstore, restaurants, movie theater and shops were all nearby. It sounded like the perfect fit.

Somehow, I knew this would be the right move for me. When we hung up, I called the manager of the apartments, and asked him to send me information on available units.

Fortunately, change doesn’t scare me if it has the potential for a positive outcome. To me, not taking a chance, especially if it could better my life, would be more of a risk.

Still, my heart ached at the thought of moving away from my “girls.” Two of my daughters lived within 10 minutes of my condo and my other daughter was an hour away. We often did things together, so this change would clearly be a dramatic shift in our lifestyles.

It was time though. My daughters were grown and on their own. As much as I love them, I knew we should all spread our wings.

I always felt if something wasn’t working for me – be it a job, lifestyle or other situation, being afraid to make a change could be destructive. Change, as tenuous as it might make me feel, would be much better than stagnating. To me, stagnation is the worst risk of all.

So, here I am, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Do I have regrets? I miss my family and friends down to the very core of my being. But, I know one thing for certain. This is the best thing for all of us. The lifestyle here, with so many options to stay physically and mentally fit, is invigorating in every sense of the word. At this “well-seasoned” stage of my life, that’s critical.

I can watch concerts from my patio, and recently saw performers impersonate Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. New Year’s Eve brought a spectacular display of fireworks.

There are so many gorgeous days to walk around the lake here. We often stop for a few minutes to absorb the beautiful surroundings – amazed that we were introduced to this little bit of heaven on earth.

My advice? Embrace change. It may open the door to exciting new experiences, peace, renewal and real joy.

Jimmy Dean once said: I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. I truly believe that, at this stage of my life – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was meant to be my destination.

PS: The doctor was wrong. I never did lose my eye sight!

About this writer

  • Donna McCusker

    Donna McCusker

    Donna McCusker retired to Myrtle Beach after teaching high school students in the South Bronx for several years. Formerly a content strategist for Ogilvy & Mather’s advertising agency in NYC, she is now applying her background in education, advertising and writing to author a book about her experiences as a teacher.

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3 Responses to “Embracing Change”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Kudos to you for taking a giant step towards your future. Your story is encouraging.

  2. Erika Hoffman says:

    You absolutely made the right choice! Have you seen the movie Book Club? Diane Keaton’s daughters are worried about their widowed mom and want her to move to the basement of one of them. She doesn’t want to. Well, the movie is worth seeing and hilarious.

  3. Rose Ann says:

    Change can be scary at any age, but especially as we grow older. How wonderful that you found a beautiful “prize” behind door number 2! Enjoy your new direction, and I’m so glad your doctor’s diagnosis was wrong!

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