Accepting and confronting life’s many changes is tremendously difficult, and you aren’t alone. We all experience the fear and longing. We all struggle to let go of the people and places we care about deeply. Everyone has a story. This is my mine. It’s the lessons I have learned – through various instances of trial and error – about understanding and handling change.
“Hey, are you OK? You’ve watched like 50 episodes of the Vampire Diaries and I’m starting to get concerned…”
I smiled slightly as my boyfriend sat down next to me, searching for a reassuring answer from his zombie companion. I stopped whatever sporadic typing and clicking I was doing on my laptop for just long enough to respond, “I’ll be OK.”
This is what I do during times of transition in my life. When a drastic change is about to impact my everyday existence/relationships, I get into this weird trance that consists of staying up unnecessarily late working on my computer, watching awful television and drinking various caffeinated beverages next to my confused, but personable feline friend. We all have our own strange, unorthodox coping mechanisms in life, and somehow this has become mine.
I believe it started a few years ago. I remember spending weeks of a Christmas break in college watching this same absurd vampire TV show with my sister in my parents’ basement. It was like our own little getaway. Having just ended a streak of relationships that composed the previous 5-6 years of my life, I was caught in that purgatory of knowing you’re ready to move on but are still too terrified to take the next steps to do so. I knew I had to let go, proclaim ashes-to-ashes on my experiences and embrace the opportunity I had to start over. I just wasn’t ready yet. I wanted to cling to another reality as much as I could, where I could freeze time and avoid confronting what I needed to leave behind. It’s like retreating into a fantasy world when you’re afraid. I even used to do this with Harry Potter books when I was a kid, except I had to sneak into the bathtub to stay up late reading because it was the only light my parents left on in the house, and they didn’t introduce me to coffee yet. The vices change with age, but the concept is universal. Change scares the hell out of us, and we try to avoid that feeling.
We all do this in one way or another. I’ve jumped into fantasy land for a little while when I have moved, when I graduated college, when I went through breakups, when I’ve lost friends, when I’ve changed jobs and essentially every time I’ve started to see that impending change dangling over my head, ready to fall on me at any moment.
Change is so inevitable and reoccurring, particularly in your twenties. The only constant in life is that it will always change, yet we resist it so diligently.
It’s normal to be afraid to move on. I’m the first to admit my issues with it, and no matter how many times I leave people, places and routines behind, it never seems to get any easier. I believe that’s OK though, because it means you are making connections, experiences, memories and emotions that are so strong and authentic that it hurts to let them go. That’s what life is about. That’s what it means to be human.
-If you live in constant fear of loss, you’ll never connect to anything or anyone enough to miss them like crazy when they’re gone.
It’s OK to feel that. It’s healthy to confront and embrace that emotion. What you can’t do is hide from reality. Denial doesn’t combat change. It won’t keep your friends from moving across the country, your relationships from fizzling out or your career path from changing on a dime. It won’t make major decisions any less terrifying or risky. It won’t take away the very elements of those experiences that make them important.
I’m guilty of distancing myself from others right when I start to realize I am going to lose them, or our relationship is about to drastically change. And every time I have done that, I’ve hated myself for it afterwards. I’ve carried that guilt and pushed it down to some distant cavity of my heart I rarely acknowledge. But it’s true. I’ve avoided good-byes that I’ll never get back, danced around the truth when I knew what was happening and wasted moments hidden away in my denial bubble that I could have spent getting the most out of the time I had left with those people and chapters of my life.
Change is what makes our lives incredible. It’s what exposes us to new places, remarkable lessons and human beings that touch our hearts in vastly unique and complex ways. It stimulates our careers and diversifies our perspectives. It keeps us fresh, adaptable and open-minded. It helps us grow as teachers, friends, lovers and leaders.
-If you’re branching into a new stage of life with a new person, new job, new school, new location or new objective, it’s likely because you’re ready for the change, and you need it.
Embrace it. Appreciate the past, thrive in the present and look forward to the future. Take a few days to sort out your emotions – if you’re me that means hitting “Yes” an embarrassingly high amount of times when Netflix asks if you’re still watching the Vampire Diaries at 2AM – and then take action. It’s OK to be afraid of change, but not OK to let that fear steal away the dreams you’re chasing by making the change in the first place. Don’t let self-doubt rob you of the magic of new opportunities. Don’t ever let the notion of being comfortable or content restrict you from taking a chance on extraordinary. Change can be your tool for greatness if you let it.
So as I sit here on the verge of turning a new page in my crazy book of life, I want you to know that we are the same. We share a seat on the same roller coaster experience that fuels human existence. We cut our losses, take risks, say plenty of hellos and goodbyes, and eventually find out what it means to find happiness and self-fulfillment.
There’s no way to know what’s waiting for you on the other side, but there’s only one way to find out.