Whew, change! It is an unavoidable constant in our lives. I both welcome it and loathe it and, there’s no helping me! Big and small changes often shake me, even though it may not always look like it on the outside. Not being able to sit in the same seat in the class, the grocery store changing its layout, the sky getting darker earlier, and transitioning from shorts to sweaters are life adjustments that pain me. I will think about these situations for hours, days even, and it throws off my flow. Stubbornly, I reorient myself, eventually coming to terms that this is everyday life and out of my control. “I don’t handle change well,” I often shout to myself as I relinquish my grudge. The changes I choose to make, within my control, are even more difficult to process.
Change is hard. Even though we have been on the other side of change time and time again- proving how adaptable we are- it doesn’t make going through change easier. Before I commit to making any change, I have typically invested hours of reflection, looking at the situation from different angles, and running “simulations” in my mind about the different outcomes. Thinking about change is tiring before even making it. I can spend months deciding what clothes to add to my wardrobe, how to cut my hair, or new bedsheets to try. It can take years before I decide on making changes in my jobs, relationships, or behaviors. When I finally make a move, I know it is not without plenty of forethought, but it’s hard to feel confident and ready. The uncertainty and the unknown are real fears and uncomfortable. Letting go of the control I have right now to take a chance on something new is scary.
When I quit my job last year, I felt a deep sense of relief and peace, and I felt remorse. Though I was, and am, 99% sure that was the right decision for me, that 1% weighed heavily on my mind. Still today, I am met with waves of questioning regret – this is stupid, I should have never done this, what was I thinking, how do they feel. Then I think about what led me there in the first place and how I actually feel in the moment – this was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I made several different changes last year, all for me, and it’s a bizarre concept. I didn’t think I was brave because I am literally always scared and filled with regret when I make a change. I am realizing now that bravery isn’t acting with the absence of fear; it is knowing and owning that you are afraid and choosing to act anyway.
If I struggle to process change, I imagine others are as well, especially those who may be on the other side of my decisions. This understanding, this empathy, often adds to my processing time. Sometimes what I want, what I desperately need, will disappoint someone else. I learned early on that disappointing others is something to limit as much as possible. How they’ll react, the pain they may feel sometimes feels greater and stronger than my own. Observing, predicting, empathizing, and trying to minimize as much discomfort as possible for all was a coping mechanism that served my survival for years. If nothing else, these past two years have shown me just how unsustainable that strategy is. At the end of the day, I was trying to control my environment, control how others would react, the best way I knew to conjure a sense of safety. However, the plain truth is I cannot control how others feel. None of us can. Change can be difficult for all involved. We can understand the complicated feelings that some decisions will inevitably bring up, practice compassion and grace, and not abandon ourselves in the process. What is within our control is acting and communicating with kindness, but it does not mean it will always feel good for everybody.
I am learning to sit more intimately with change; to grow and stretch with it; to ride the waves. I am learning that I do not have to compartmentalize everything and swiftly move on- I can wade in the messiness and mushiness of change and the feelings that arise. I can take my time to process how I feel, my observations, and my thoughts- my being is not on anyone else’s timeline. I do not have to rush. I accept that change will always be hard for me to process, and that’s okay. I trust that I have faced change from birth, in innumerable forms, and I can handle whatever comes at me next.