Here’s the truth: I’m not a huge fan of change.
I’ll start this out with a more innocuous example. Writing.
One thing I’ve learned about writing is that your writing style and persona changes as you grow and mature in writing skill and in your personal life.
Sometimes I cringe when I read an old blog post or story of mine and shake my head at how I used to write. I seriously learned a LOT about writing between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four or so–and it shows. (Fortunately for you, I won’t force you to see that for yourself. Just take my word for it.) Not that I’m anywhere near perfect now, but I do like to think I’ve improved at least some since then.
But then there are those other slightly rarer times when I look back and see some surprisingly quality, insightful content from my fourteen- or twenty-one-year-old self and I wonder, have I changed for the better? Or have I let myself stray off in a detrimental way? Have I lost a part of my style that was actually good and valuable? Should I go back to that previous style of writing and try to keep flowing in the same vein?
Writing is just one example.
Whenever I realize how much I have changed and how different I am now from how I used to be, I start to get all sentimental and feel those pangs of nostalgia, telling me that I can’t lose that part of myself, that I need to go back and recover that version of myself, however obsolete or anachronistic it really is to the current me.
And it’s not just restricted to my personal changes–I can apply my overly-sentimental reaction to multiple situations and settings:
Seeing my friends and siblings grow up and get married and have kids, realizing that another birthday is just around the corner AGAIN (seriously, has it already been a year!?), saying goodbye to people in my life, finding old pictures and mementos of when my siblings and I were little, reading old journals…the list gets pretty long, but in each of those instances, it jolts me with the realization of how much life has changed, how much I have changed.
So again, those pangs of nostalgia creep in, telling me I’ve lost something valuable and I need to do something to preserve the past, however ghostly and irrecoverable it may be.
It’s hard struggling through those feelings, wanting to go back and relive the past in my mind, but I just have to deal with it all, right? I mean, bygones are bygones, and all that. But sometimes my desire to hold onto the past manifests itself in more than just feelings of nostalgia. (Here’s me being painfully honest…gulp.)
For example, not wanting to get rid of old papers and things from my childhood or adolescent years (or early adulthood, or any time in the past), resulting in a dizzying overload of likely worthless or trivial stuff in the house that I know I don’t need but feels like the only way to stay connected to those years.
Here’s the thing: Memories are good and all, but I’ve always felt a stronger connection with the past through tangible things like pictures, papers, journals, and other memorabilia. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with keeping things that have special, personal value to you, but for me that need to preserve the past through physical objects can get a little excessive. (Painfully honest here, remember?)
Here’s another not-so-positive result of my hyper-nostalgia: I can tend to avoid or bypass certain things or decisions in life that may be good or right for me, but because they also involve a big change for me, I either don’t fully invest in them or I just let them go. I mean things like a potential job or living situation, or even the idea of a possible relationship (like, romantic). No matter how much I may want those things, sometimes the resulting fruit basket upset in my life is a little too much (or scary) to handle.
That sounds totally foolish, right? It really does sound bad to me writing it out. So why do I let myself be this way?
I’m sure an eager shrink could probably boil it all down to a specific trauma or moment in my childhood that triggered a psychological response, since repressed in my memory, but manifesting itself as a latent avoidance of anything life-altering. So in other words, I’m not really sure why I react this way to change; maybe it’s a personality thing.
But more importantly, why am I telling you all this?
Well, for one, I’m hoping I’m not the only one here that struggles with seemingly ridiculous and trivial, not to mention frustrating, things like this, so do let me know if you relate so we can commiserate and be painfully honest together.
And for two, I think it’s kind of therapeutic to write it out and sort through the why’s of my actions and feelings. (But I’m not using you as my therapist, I promise.)
My goal for any blog post I write is to find solutions; not just to lay out a problem or issue in painful honesty and then run away, but also to provide a practical response as to how to effectively address the situation and find answers. I mean, I’m definitely not always successful in that, but that’s my hope. And often those answers come to me in the process of writing and mentally working through my thoughts and the possible solutions.
I’m not sure if this is the sort of thing that can be addressed and resolved in one long awkward blog post doubling as a self-therapy session, but I think it’s a start.
To be honest, I know the truth about change, but I have to get myself to remember it and let it sink into my heart.
I know that change is a part of life, and I’m not going to stay the same, no matter how tightly I might hold onto the past. I know that not only is it not possible to hold onto the past, I don’t want to hold onto it. Or at least I shouldn’t want to.
Change is a neutral concept. It doesn’t only mean different; it also doesn’t only mean bad different. Change is the alteration of things, yes, but most of the time, it’s a positive alteration, or at least, positive things will (ultimately) come from the alteration.
However, it will take me way longer than it needs to for me to see the good in it if I’m desperately grasping for the ghosts of the past. I can’t live in the past as hard as I try, but I also can’t be fully living in the present and effectively impacting my future if I won’t let go of the past.
I know that change can be a hugely positive thing in my life if I will simply let go of what I can’t hold onto anyway and look forward to what is to come.
If I can do that, I will realize eventually that my current self is the only one with the potential to be my true self, who I was created to be. Because as I learn and grow, I am constantly adapting my person and character and beliefs according to my life experiences and personal/spiritual growth. I can’t reach for my authentic self if I’m still reaching back toward the old self.
I am no longer that old Heather. I am not who I once was. I am who I am today, now, this moment.
And twenty years from now, or a month from now, I will not be who I am today. I am continually changing, growing, adapting, and there’s nothing wrong with that. And as I am changing, the circumstances and stages of my life will change with me, as they must.
As I come to understand this, I can fully embrace the journey of life, with all its curves and dips, mountains and valleys, forests and deserts.
I know all this in my head, but have I fully grasped it and let it influence how I live my life? Well, obviously not, not by a long shot. Like I said, this is the sort of thing that you may know mentally, but have yet to really let it sink into your heart and become a part of who you are.
But I think that acknowledging the problem is the first step toward positive change (yes, change), and gradually I will come to know this deep inside. And if this is something you struggle with in any way, I hope you will too.
Let me know if this has benefited you in any way. I’d love to hear about your personal journey with change and the things that have helped you deal with it and embrace it.
Thanks for reading!