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Lunchtime is a welcomed break for all of us here at CONNECT Lake Country, and the lunchroom is often a place where many ideas and stories are shared. Recently, over a rather boring meal, I had an incredibly interesting and energizing conversation with Karen, CONNECT Lake Country Leader.  The topic of our conversation was change; more specifically, how life-changes can be a catalyst for personal growth, excitement, hope and much more. Planned or unplanned, change offers a unique opportunity to challenge one’s self to either change an attitude, internally, and/or change a condition, externally. Change on any scale, large or small, is necessary to prevent boredom, monotony and apathy – states that are a risk to many and all too familiar to the rest.

I thought about all of the major changes that have occurred in my life: the first day of high school; moving away from home for college and university; graduating; moving across the country for a practicum; and then moving further west to start a career at CONNECT. Each one of these changes brought an end and a beginning, a chance to re-create myself and grow, excitement mixed with feelings of nervousness and fear; though, in anticipation of all of these major life changes, what I really felt was “alive”. It was the looking-forward-to process that was most rewarding for me during those times.

Now, for the first time in my life, I don’t have that certainty of a next major step, that event that I know will likely alter the course of my life, that chance to re-create myself, that large scale change that has, until recently, been a major driving force for me. Despite being very happy with my current situation, I now have to find other ways to make sure that I don’t get too comfortable, bored, or apathetic. I have to find other things to challenge and excite me. Because I don’t have any of these major life events in my near future, I must find smaller, more novel opportunities for change, excitement and personal growth. So far, this has not been easy!

As I thought about all of this, I also thought of how important – and difficult – it is for someone who has experienced a brain injury to find new things in life to bring excitement and break routine, especially when living in a group environment. The suddenness of brain injury can throw a wrench in the spokes of major life plans, and the impact of brain injury makes it difficult to remove. Yet, having a brain injury does not change a person’s want or need for these experiences; if anything it makes them more important.

As staff working with people with brain injuries, it is our job to help ensure that they continue to seek out these opportunities. If a person can no longer continue with whatever major life plans they were anticipating, they must find other, novel activities and events that will provide similar feelings of hope, excitement and opportunities for growth.

Here at CONNECT, we are constantly working with our residents to find activities that meet these needs. Whether it is work, school, volunteering, community groups, pottery lessons, kayaking, sailing, ziplining, playing sledge hockey or performing in front of a crowd at the local coffee shop’s Open Mic night; there are opportunities for everyone to try something new, exciting and meaningful.

It is not just about presenting these opportunities, though. We need to work with our residents to see the importance of regularly and purposefully trying new things, challenging themselves to learn and progress, and, in doing so, help them to discover a life full of anticipation and opportunities for change. And in addition to all of the hard work that we do with our residents, we need to do this for ourselves!

So, for all of us – staff members, residents, everybody who is reading – we must remember this: once we recognize the importance of seeking out opportunities for excitement, change and growth, the more likely we are to do so; the more opportunities we find, the more we have to look forward to in life; and the more we have to look forward to, the happier we will be.

At this point, I will refer to the mission of CONNECT and propose that, if we all remember and practice these ideas, at work and at home, we are certain to Make Lives Better.