Most psychologists agree we are wired to resist change. In fact, a recent study showed that monkeys are more cognitively flexible than humans. That’s not to say we’re incapable of change or even enjoying change on occasion, but for the most part, we like things the way they are.
That’s why you’ll see people sit in the same pew on Sunday mornings, take the same route to work every day, go to their favorite restaurant and order their favorite dish, and put their Christmas tree in the same spot every year. There’s a certain comfort to routine, in understanding the order of things.
Change is necessary, though, as we all need to move forward and that’s no different at the Air Force Academy. There is a certain comfort in the sameness – everyone in the same uniform, eating in the same hall, that sort of thing. But change is built into the experience and it’s never more evident than this time of year. As the academic year wraps up (I hesitate to call it a “school” year), things are going to change dramatically.
The firsties, of course, are going to commission and put the Springs in their rearview mirror. That rhythm that’s ruled their lives for the past four years will shift and much of what they’ve known as normal is about to be replaced with a new reality. Still, while much will change, they still take their traditional dip and other things they’ve seen preceding classes do, making the upcoming change more normal. The former Doolies-now-C4Cs just earned their right to enjoy the “normal” side of life at USAFA but they have their first real summer ahead of them. The training that follows I Day is one thing but it doesn’t provide a roadmap for what they will experience this summer.
The ceaseless cadence of the academy builds change into the lives of the cadets and, by extension, their families. Parents Weekend, parades, they all create that rhythm that helps us embrace the change.
Reality interferes at times, most recently as our USAFA community wrestles with the inexplicable loss of one of our cadets, but the wheels of the academy continue to turn. The cycles continue. You see it on Facebook pages as the families of incoming Doolies ask questions you see most every May, “what kind of computer should I get my son?” or “What should my daughter bring with her for I Day?” juxtaposed with firstie families debating Commissioning Week details about wardrobe, gifts, and places to eat.
Such is preparation for life beyond the Academy for both the cadets and their families. We all learn to embrace the cadence while rolling with the changes and dealing with shocking curveballs that leave us, at least momentarily, reeling. May is here, bringing a wave of change for everyone, some expected and welcomed, some neither. But Commissiong Week will happen as it has for so many years and after the firsties toss their covers, the rest of the cadets will head to summer training as they have for so many years. And, yes, in June, USAFA will welcome another class of Doolies, as it has for so many years.
We may not be wired for change, but we do learn to live with it.