There’s a saying in my family: Change is bad. That’s it—that’s the whole saying. I believe at one point my mother requested it be engraved on her tombstone. But, while I ascribe to such charming family mottos as, “Why bother doing something if you can’t be the best,” and, “It’s better to work harder alone than to collaborate with others and cede control,” I never really hopped on board with this one. The way I saw it, I lived in such a state of misery that change, at least, held the (seldom realized) potential for relief. Because when you’re staring up from the bottom of an agonizing abyss you think, Anything would be better than this. It’s like the god-awful horror movie I watched last night, Would You Rather. If your present situation, option A, involves having your head held underwater for two minutes and you’re presented with an option B, your foolishly optimistic mind thinks, Anything would be better than this–let’s go with option B! Of course, when option B turns out to be slitting your eyeball open with a razor blade, you realize that your mind is an idiot and really you’re just shit out of luck. But despite appearances to the contrary, life isn’t a low-budget horror movie (the production value is better, at least) and most change doesn’t result in grievous bodily harm (no guarantees, though). In reality, change is the very nature of existence. It is how we evolve as a species, how we grow as individuals—humans are designed to adapt. And while change can sometimes be scary and uncomfortable—or even so downright awful as to feel like having an explosive duct-taped to your hand with the fuse lit (this movie was a real masterpiece)—the alternative is, at best, boredom and stagnation, but at its core it is a living death.
I’ve always taken great solace in the ephemeral nature of life. It reassures us that whatever pain we’re in, it won’t last forever, because no condition is permanent. As morbid as it may sound, even the impermanence of life itself has always brought me a sense of peace. No matter how insurmountable our problems may seem or how unbearable our hardships, we can comfort ourselves with the fact that one day we’ll all die and none of this will matter. (Unless you believe in an afterlife, but that’s between you and your god/gods/mythical pagan swamp creature—whatever deities you bow down to.) Dark, perhaps, but this understanding of our insignificance in the broader scheme of the universe, the transience of our existence, has always felt like a consolation in the face of life’s difficulties.
Of course, this ultra-zen, kumbaya, go-with-the-flow approach to change was all fine and dandy while I was clawing my way up from rock bottom, but now that I’ve made it out I’ve discovered that, along with the sunshine, fresh air, and scenic views, comes the very real possibility of stumbling ass over tea kettle (What does this expression mean? Why is this in my lexicon?) off the edge of the cliff. I’ve got this voice whispering in my ear, You did it! You made it! After all that struggle, is now really the best time to rock the boat? But a larger, more courageous part of me knows that I’ve been drifting along in this boat for years (I know, I know, I’m mixing metaphors—first it was a cliff, now it’s a boat—just try to keep up, okay?) and as I learned while sailing on Lake Michigan one fateful, stormy day—sometimes the only way to let go of that old, ill-equipped boat (the bow wasn’t sealed, for fuck’s sake) and finally make the move to a more sea-worthy vessel is to sink it beneath the waves in a thunderstorm and have a little faith that there’s something better out there. And hopefully you won’t be struck down by lightning before you find it. (We weren’t! Yay! And before you get on my case for sailing in a thunderstorm–we were performing a last-minute, emergency rescue because our rescue boats were out of the water.)
What I’m really referring to with all this talk of change is my impending cross-country move. The truth is—I’m scared shitless. I thought the new and improved me would handle this with grace and aplomb, like the grown-ass woman I imagined I’d become. Instead, I’m finding real appeal in the whole ostrich-style, head-in-the-sand, hide-under-the-covers-with-a-bottle-of-wine-and-write-panicked-emails-to-my-mother approach. It’s a bit of an inverse equation—the nearer I draw to this transition, the further I recede from any semblance of poise and maturity. I find myself growing defensive, ducking for cover and taking aim at each change looming on the horizon with a shotgun loaded with cynicism and contempt. I try to remind myself of my once-present (and wholly out of character) optimism in the face of change, that my resistance is just nerves amplified by a bout of spring-fever-induced anxiety and that everything will look better through the lens of restored sanity (whenever that decides to grace me with its merciful presence). But in the meantime, I’m trying really hard not to run the train off the tracks. I know this move is sorely needed—that I’ve been slogging along in this rut for years now and drastic measures are needed in order to move forward with my life, to escape this comfortable death and get on with the business of growth and progress—to really live, rather than merely exist. So I’m trying very hard not to buy into this particular, “Change is bad,” family motto. I’ve resisted it for so many years. I just have to keep reminding myself that change is growth, change is potential, change is excitement, change is good.