Monday, September 19, 2022

How to deal with change, from the girl who hates change

What’s the worst that could happen? 

Words that I’ve heard many, many times as someone who fears change. The only thing is, when you have an imagination as active as mine, it’s not always the best question to ask. Because I’ll tell you exactly what’s the worst that could happen, in grim and excessive detail. 

You know that character from A Series of Unfortunate Events - Josephine Anwhistle? She’s so weighed down with grief that she becomes terrified of everything in the house, even the most mundane things. 

‘Don’t stand too close to the fridge - it might fall on you and kill you.’ 

Well, that used to be me in life - only in more of a figurative sense (not much can keep me away from the fridge). Instead, it was more like ‘don’t enter the competition. You might win and have to do a speech and throw up in front of everyone and then faint’. Or ‘don’t apply for the job. You might completely fluff the interview and become the laughing stock of the office while they use you as the prime example of how not to answer an interview question.’

So, what’s the worst that could happen? You’ll probably wish you didn’t ask.

Nowadays, I like to think I’m more open to change. A transition that only happened over the last few years, which - given the amount of significant events we’ve lived through - probably makes sense. Now, instead of heartpounding anxiety and citrussy nausea washing over me, it’s more of a numbness whenever the idea of general change is brought up. Almost like someone hits ‘pause’ on my thoughts, giving me a moment to think about the bigger picture before I enter full-on Josephine territory.

What’s the secret? I wish I knew. Maybe it’s simply growing up. And I don’t mean maturity-wise (although that might be part of it). I mean the older we get, the more likely we are to have experienced a whole load of changes. I’ve definitely gone through more life-altering changes now, at 24, than I had as a bright-eyed 8-year-old when the biggest thing I had to adapt to was eating sandwiches on brown bread (and now I only eat brown bread through choice. See? Change can be good).

I don’t want to give full credit to the natural aging process for my new mindset, though. There’s definitely been some active re-thinking on my part. I mean, who said something can’t be scary and exciting at the same time? This concept brought me comfort in the most terrifying times, knowing that there could still be something amazing on the other side of the door. Sure, change feels uncomfortable and uneasy and maybe even sad at first, but chances are there’s something around the corner that you hadn’t even considered. And a lot of times, that something is what leads you to exactly where you need to be.

Last year I got a book through work called Who Moved My Cheese - an apparent must-read for anyone who fears change. It came at a time when, besides a pandemic and some emotional hiccups, there were also a lot of changes happening in the workplace. I figured it might be a good time to pick it up. It’s the silliest little book about two mice - Sniff and Scurry, and two 'Littlepeople' - Hem and Haw, in a maze - all looking for cheese (a metaphor that really speaks to me). When the cheese isn't where they expect to find it, they all react in different ways. It sounds silly, and in some ways it was, but it also really stuck with me. I devoured the whole thing in one sitting (it’s only short), without reading any of the reviews. In fact, I only flipped through some of the reviews before writing this post, out of curiosity - and a lot of them were bad. Claiming that the book just uses made-up characters and a made-up story to ‘state the obvious’. But…isn’t the obvious sometimes exactly what we need to hear? I’ve always known that being able to adapt to change is preferable for personal growth, but somehow being told in story-form made me see exactly what that meant. I guess I just needed to hear it via a wholesome story with lovable characters. Yes, I did develop an emotional attachment to Haw's character.

That being said, am I a spontaneous adrenaline-junkie now who feels complete excitement about the unknown? No. Absolutely not. I still stick to my usual coffee order, and 90% of the time I choose to rewatch shows I’ve already seen rather than start a new one. But, when a larger change does come my way, I try to embrace it - asking not how will I cope with this, but instead what opportunities might come from this? So far, some pretty great ones.

So maybe that’s the secret. Maybe it’s not about curing the fear of change at all. Maybe it’s about being absolutely terrified of change, but embracing it anyway.

(What's the worst that could happen?)


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