“I am under no obligation to make sense to you.” SZA
Let’s talk about change. Not your pocket change, but the true, uncomfortable, deeply rooted, sometimes necessary and personal type of change. Some people thrive in the space of personal reinvention and welcome the daily fluctuations this lifestyle brings. Others might be hesitant and constantly waiting for the perfect time, opportunity, resource, partnership etc. to materialize, so that they can ensure their personal change is without risk. Or they might be waiting for others to take the leap before them.
At different points in my life, I fell under the second category. I kept myself defined by how others saw me or by the things I was interested in or how I was in college or by the things I thought my age, demographic, career, etc. should be defined by. For some reason, I didn’t allow myself to redefine or reevaluate the person that I woud like to become once I was out in the ‘real world’ and had the time, freedom, and resources to do so. I thought that the person that I had been before was always going to be the person I had to be and that I was in too deep with my decisions or life choices to pick differently. Or, I thought this is what everyone else my age is doing or thinking about or acting on and I wouldn’t even question it.
However, it quite literally took a global pandemic to force me to change my life entirely. Once I realized COVID was not going to have the quick resolution we had all hoped for, I had no other choice but to make moves anyways. This state of society forced me to reevaluate so many different elements about my own life that I had not questioned or was entirely unhappy with. It pushed me in the direction of discomfort, saying no more often, putting myself out there, and redefining what I wanted my potential future life to look like.
The rest of the world was on hold. There would never be a time like this again.
I wondered to myself…
“Was I happy in my current environment? Was I doing the best I could to be taking care of my mental and physical health? Was I ignoring certain realities because I was too scared to address the consequences? Were my relationships fulfilling and healthy? Was I taking too much on at work? Was I still excited about the things that used to make my heart happy? Was I trying so hard to be everything to everyone while not taking time to check-in with myself?”
For my personal growth process, I needed to ask myself difficult questions. I needed to sit down and be honest with myself and I needed to feel my emotions before I was able to heal them. I needed to be okay with leaving entire elements of my life behind and I needed to be okay with the fact that I didn’t know what my new life would look like or how long it would take before I felt comfortable again.
As I continue this personal process of change, I’ve realized a few things that have become my reality. Change is not a self-care weekend or a face mask or a new outfit. It’s working on yourself, on your relationships, on your career, on your past, present, and future and making a game plan for what you want out of life. It’s coming to terms with what you like and don’t like about yourself and figuring out what you’re going to do about it. It’s about making the decision to be intentional about your life and what you will demand out of it.
It’s okay to take time off to work on yourself. Not just a day, or a weekend, but a few months or even a year if that’s what you need. It’s okay if this time is spent alone. It’s okay if your current energy levels cannot sustain the person that you used to be. You’re allowed to abandon who you were last year, last month, or last week.
“You have the right to change. Without notice, without permission, and without someone else’s validation.”
At the end of the day, people can only understand you from their own level of perception. You don’t need to over explain yourself when you’re undergoing a process of personal reflection and evolution. And quite frankly, I didn’t even know how to verbalize what I was feeling to myself, let alone to others. If you run into this push back during your own process of change, simply state your boundary and whatever it is you’re comfortable contributing and leave it at that. Those who respect your process, even if they don’t understand it, will recognize this and will extend their support for you whenever you’re ready to take it. It’s okay if others get angry. It’s okay if they feel entitled to the old version of you. It’s okay if this conversation with them feels uncomfortable. Do not take it personally. People can only understand you from their own level of perception. Be kind, hold your head high, and continue doing what you know is right for you.
If there is anything I have truly learned from this pandemic, it’s the fact that nothing is guaranteed. If you keep people pleasing and putting off your goals and aspirations or making excuses that limit your own potential, who is to say the opportunity will present itself again? Maybe you’re already the person you want to be. Maybe you’re still working on becoming that version of yourself. Maybe you didn’t even realize that you wanted to change and now you’re considering what that might look like for you. Wherever you’re at, please remember you have the right to be whoever and whatever the heck it is you want to be.
Being truly happy, feeling personal peace, obtaining true fulfillment. These are all very personal processes that have nothing to do with others, so don’t get caught up with how others will perceive this. You have the right to change, to evolve, to decide who and what you want to be. Do you, for you, and by your own standards.