With January 28, sparking the Chinese New Year, I thought I would reflect on what this lunar cycle has taught me.
The most important thing I learned?
That life is dynamic and change is inevitable.
This may seem like common sense, yet change for me has always been unsettling.
Over my adult life, my friendships, my music taste, my values and my own identities have completely metamorphosed, multiple times. Whilst my move away from ‘Nickelback’ towards the timeless music that is the ‘Jezabels’ is cause for celebration, most of the time change has been undesirable.
Progress was confused with disloyalty; choices I had once felt so sure, confident and committed about all of sudden became, well, less important.
I am happy to now say that in 2016 I have learned how to confront and embrace change, or at least be ok with it.
As humans, we crave control.
In this chaotic, unpredictable world, here we are trying to fight against the mess, to take charge and create some structure. Whether we use relationships, vigorous fitness regimes, careers or ten-year life plans, it’s all an attempt to order the chaos and reign in the unknown.
We want to be sovereign of our own lives.
Personally, I have always liked to have a plan; the idea of some looming, mysterious future was never exciting but riddled me with anxiety. These plans seemed to be more for the benefit of my current self, a form of control. Whether they actually worked out or not was less relevant, especially since they almost never did.
It is this need for control that makes us so opposed to progress.
Many times I have found myself clutching to the familiar, not ready to let go, only to exacerbate the problem or accelerate the change.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde,
“we never know when the curtain has fallen. We always want a sixth act.”
This is really damaging. Our lives, relationships, and personalities are not immutable, they will re-shape, whether we fight it or not. Being threatened by change only causes unnecessary anxiety and prevents you from experiencing new and usually positive things.
Change is especially difficult when it not only impacts us but involves other people too.
What if finding our own adventures comes at the cost of leaving other people behind? How do we balance commitment and independence? Is it even possible for the two to mutually co-exist?
It is equally hard when you see those you care about changing or desiring new experiences when you are completely content with the way things are. All of a sudden relationships, lifestyles, promises and futures that were once so set and resilient no longer are.
Whilst these transitions can be rough, we have to expect and allow ourselves, and others, to undergo these growth spurts.
In the words of one of my favorite writers and actors Ethan Hawke,
“If you really love somebody you want them to grow, but you don’t get to define how that happens. They do.”
To assume otherwise is really quite arrogant and selfish.
Why should somebody else fit into your plan, your wants, your safety net?
It is ok to have expectations of people and it is ok to be disappointed, but you can not control, mold or contort someone to line up with what you want and who you want them to be for you.
Ultimately, everyone is equally as real and their claim on life is just as intense. People are foremostly an individual before they are our friend, mom, dad, sibling, teacher, or partner, and that needs to be respected.
So often we rely on other people as a form of consistency, someone to cling onto when it feels like the floors are constantly sliding beneath us, but trying to find stability through a relationship will not change the unpredictable nature of the world. It will just make it harder when things do not go to plan.
Perhaps it is better to learn to be adaptable and to trust in our own competency to deal with change, rather than expecting someone else to be loyally stagnant.
We also cannot be too tough on ourselves when we change our own mind, our beliefs or our perspective on the world.
This time last year I was convinced I was going to stay in the same city, I was set on what my job title would read and I thought no one would ever disappoint me. My values were completely different and my expectations of people were extremely rigid.
Since then I have experienced emotions I did not even know existed, I have traveled to parts of the world I never thought I would reach, and I have found myself to be capable of things I am both proud and ashamed of.
My attitudes have completely developed and that is a great thing. It means the last moon cycle has not been wasted. It means I have interacted with people, places, and ideas that have changed my view, and that I have allowed myself to be open-minded enough to grow.
I have been humble enough to let life surprise me.
Whilst change can be daunting and sometimes it may seem easier to take comfort in routine, humans have always adapted, evolved and strived for more.
I think being open to change allows you to live on a bigger spectrum and be exposed to experiences, feelings, and ideas that will allow you to relate and emphasize with a wider range of people. Whilst seeking control may seem the easier or initial response, doing so restrains others, and ourselves, so in the year of the rooster, I am going to leave the roost.
I’m going to accept and seek change. Even if I ruffle a few feathers along the way.