Activated - - NEWS - By Elsa Sichrovsky Elsa Sichrovsky is a free­lance writer. She lives with her fam­ily in Tai­wan. ■

A few years ago, I was in­volved in a vol­un­teer project that op­er­ated a meal cen­ter for un­der­priv­i­leged stu­dents. For the first two years, I helped with clean­ing the kitchen, shop­ping for food sup­plies, and meal prepa­ra­tion. I felt a sense of pride in help­ing to pro­duce well­bal­anced, delicious, yet eco­nom­i­cal meals. My dili­gence was rec­og­nized by the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s lead­ers and I was given greater re­spon­si­bil­ity man­ag­ing the fund­ing and de­sign­ing the menu.

How­ever, in the third year that I was part of this project, the new man­age­ment trans­ferred the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s fo­cus to pro­vid­ing re­me­dial classes in English and sci­ence to aca­dem­i­cally strug­gling stu­dents in at-risk neigh­bor­hoods. The meal cen­ter was dra­mat­i­cally down­sized and a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of the kitchen staff, in­clud­ing my­self, were re­de­ployed as teacher as­sis­tants. Most of the for­mer cooks were glad to leave their un­seen labors as kitchen staff and en­joyed di­rectly in­ter­act­ing with the chil­dren, but not me.

The veg­eta­bles and the pots had never ar­gued with me, but in the class­room I faced ram­bunc­tious and un­pre­dictable stu­dents and a teacher who had his own opin­ions as to how I should as­sist him. The flu­id­ity and un­cer­tainty of the class­room, in ad­di­tion to the loss of my cozy nest, the place where I felt ac­com­plished and in con­trol, was un­nerv­ing, and while I ful­filled my ba­sic du­ties, I wasn’t giv­ing the class­room the same en­thu­si­asm and con­sci­en­tious­ness I had given the kitchen.

One day, I was com­plain­ing to one of my fel­low ex-cooks about the new man­age­ment. He sym­pa­thized, “Yes, it hasn’t been easy for me to see the or­ga­ni­za­tion that I’d given so much time to take on a dif­fer­ent face.” Then he con­tin­ued. “But change is an in­te­gral part of life, and some­times it’s worth ad­just­ing to the flow.”

“But I don’t like the way the flow is go­ing!” I protested. “I feel like a fish out of wa­ter.”

“Re­mem­ber how the kitchen was once a new place for you too?” he re­minded me.

“Oh my, that seems like ages and ages ago!” I ex­claimed.

“Ex­actly. You learned a lot about the kitchen, and you’ll learn a lot about teach­ing if you’re will­ing to move out of your com­fort zone.”

Years later, I am grate­ful for my friend’s ad­vice, and I still re­call it to help me weather the painful pro­cesses of life’s con­stant changes. As long as I limit my­self to do­ing things that I like and ex­cel in, I stunt my per­sonal growth. But if I flow with the cur­rent of change and al­low it to pro­pel me for­ward, I can gain new skills and en­joy new ex­pe­ri­ences.

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