Would you believe me if I told you that I am one of the biggest scaredy cats out there?
The other day I got an email in my inbox informing me I was nominated for some blogger award. Scrolling through the different categories, I began looking for my name – Best Female? Nope (oh come on, I am an awesome female) Most comical? Nope (my mom says I’m funny, I don’t get it either), and then my eyes bulged as I realized they stuck me in the “Most Fearless” category.
Really? Me – fearless? HA!
I like to think nobody knows me better than, well, me, and fearless is NOT an adjective I would use to describe myself. Ever. Almost fearless, Christine Gilbert-style? Sure thing. Absolute, superlative, totally without fear? Laughable.
Though, this got me thinking. Do you all, my sweet dear readers, see me as fearless?
Jesus, I hope not!
I have spent 4 years pouring my heart and soul into this blog, including all (ok, almost all) of my fears, doubts and anxieties. While I have done plenty of adventurous and nontraditional things like move across the world alone 4 times, rappelled down into caves and quit my job to pursue a life of travel and writing, it was never easy or without fear, not even for a moment, and if I have left any of you thinking that, then I count it as a total failure on my part.
For me (and I suspect for most of you) change and fear are inherently linked.
Us humans naturally fear the unknown; in fact, I think we are raised that way. Everything we know is easy, good, and above all, comfortable. I think most people would agree that being comfortable is good, right? Who doesn’t like to be comfortable? Nobody, that’s who.
We like what we know. We like routine. We like familiarity. It’s the new things, the future, the sphere of the unknown that is truly scary because, by its very nature, we don’t know what’s going to happen – it’s unpredictable; it’s uncontrollable. It could easily blow up in your face, or it could be a great success.
And therein lies the difference. Perspective and positivity.
You see, I have a love/hate relationship with change.
I don’t inherently like change. Not really.
Embracing change is an internal battle I struggle with every. single. goddamn. day. I would go as far as to say I am the world’s biggest creature of comfort. I could easily have spent my whole life at home, in my very cozy room at my parent’s very cozy house in Virginia. Probably in my very cozy onesie pajamas. I would have been comfortable, but ultimately, would I have been happy?
I don’t think so.
So over the years, I have forced myself over and over and over again to embrace change. To shake up routine, to try new things, to intentionally rip myself out of my comfortable, organized little box and into the vast unknown, into an arena filled with potential failure, humiliation or even death.
But you know why I keep doing it? My fear of the unknown is triumphed over by only one thing – a fear of regret. At the end of the day, I would have rather tried and failed abominably than not to have tried at all.
I have no shame in admitting I want things out of life that will never, ever happen if I sit on my ass at home. While I enjoy reading about adventures, that’s not enough for me. As much as I want to wake up in my childhood bed everyday cuddling my childhood cat, I want to see the world more and for myself. I want to WRITE those stories, not just read them.
For me, change manifests itself in travel.
Embracing change is a work in progress, something you have to constantly be aware of and work on, at least for me. But ultimately the benefits of change, the positive results of challenging monotony, far outweigh the risks.
But enough about me. After countless years and moments of catastrophic fuck-ups and failures, stubborn refusals and denials followed up with the most incredible experiences of my life, here are 5 reasons I’ve whittled down why change is actually a GOOD thing and why, even kicking and screaming, we should all embrace it.
1. Change eliminates what-ifs and potential regrets
Over the years, I’ve come to think of the idea of change as a kind of medicine or vegetable. Something I don’t really want and would never voluntarily chose, but rather something I have come to accept is essential to my wellbeing, knowing that in the long run, it’s good for me.
Whether it’s physical or emotional, knowingly and willingly making a change in your life with the goal of something better is worth undertaking, right?
This is something I have been massively struggling with since February when my lease ended on my house in New Zealand. I was faced with a big decision, find a new place to live in Wellington or move down to Wanaka like I had originally planned.
I really really wanted to just stay in Wellington. I love Wellington. I could see myself there long term. I was happy there. I also really really didn’t want to deal with all the shit that goes into moving across the country. Again.
But deep down I knew I had to leave. When I decided to move to New Zealand, it wasn’t to be in a city. Wanaka had been calling to me for months, and I knew if I didn’t at least give it a try, I would both regret it and hate myself.
As far as I am concerned, you are not allowed to regret anything if you put forth your best effort, no matter the outcome.
Leaving Wellington was the hardest thing I’ve done since moving to New Zealand, and I struggled and agonized over what to do for months, and even up until the day before I left town, I was unsure and debating on staying, secretly looking at flats online.
But you know what? Getting on that ferry to the South Island was the best decision I’ve made this year.
Choosing between the unknown and the familiar is the hardest choice in the world. And while somethings will not always go as planned or not work out, the important thing is that you try. Now I can look back on my time in Wellington with fondness, knowing that it will always be there for me as an option, but also continue my life in Wanaka without wondering or regrets.
2. Change will open your eyes and lead to personal growth
In fact, I heartily believe that change can make you a better person. A bold statement, I know, but bear with me.
Sometimes, or I’d say most of the time, we get stuck in a mindset, in a certain way of thinking, behaving, and even living, that we shun change.
But I find when you do the same thing over and over again, your world shrinks, your perspective is limited, and quite possibly, your way of thinking is small-minded. Harsh, I know.
And I don’t know about you, but I really HATE small-minded people. Well, hate is a strong word, and I try not to hate. If anything, I feel sorry for people that can’t, or better put, WON’T think outside their own little world.
The truth is, the more open you are to change, the bigger the world becomes.
And though I am writing this from the perspective of a full-time traveler, I would never presume to argue that travel is the only way to open your mind.
Travel is what has worked for me, has changed my perspective of the world that I live in, and is the catalyst for allowing me to embrace change. But that’s not for everyone, and I am perfectly aware of that.
In fact, most travel bloggers are pretty fucking arrogant and will preach to the moon and back that travel is the BEST, the ONLY, the PERFECT way to live. But I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. In fact, I will tell you that it’s also small-minded.
There are a million ways you can embrace change, and you have to find what works for you, or even if change itself is what works for you. Though I have a feeling if you are one of those people who refuses change no matter what, you are on the wrong blog.
At the end of the day, trying new things, welcoming change, and challenging yourself will only lead to good things, even if those good things are how you view the world and look outside of yourself.
I feel at this point I should thank both my new flatmate V and my blogging partner in crime Laurence of Finding the Universe for talking me though this. I have been in a slump for a few months, and I’ve been taking the easy way out by writing and sharing travel stories with pretty pictures, instead of digging deep and writing more profound posts like I used to. Stuck in a rut and time for a change!
3. Change leads to flexibility and positive thinking
Two days ago I made myself go to a yoga class in Wanaka. I want to get involved in the community here, meet new people, and most importantly work on stretching and getting back in control of my body.
I should preface this by saying I haven’t stepped foot on a yoga may in 4 years.
So when Monday morning dawned, I was pretty nervous (and sleepy) and I really didn’t want to go to this class but I forced myself to get out of bed and go anyway (this is what I mean about change being medicinal). I then proceeded to get my ass handed to me by a bunch of hippy yoga moms in Lululemon leggings for an hour.
Sweaty and disgruntled, I left the class thinking, “I will get better at this.”
Maybe it’s just me, but once you embrace the idea of change and decide to incorporate it into your life, it becomes inherent and it certainly changes how you think and handle situations. 5 years ago I would have given up, been disheartened, embarrassed; I might not have even tried to get back into yoga. I used to be brittle, inflexible, letting fear of whatever hold me back.
By embracing change in my life, I have learned to roll with the punches and look on the brightside. Because I force changes in my life over and over and over again, I can now easily adapt to new situations. I even feel like I understand people a lot better.
So now when things go wrong or if I fail at something, I don’t lose my shit (at first) and I have learned to adapt, which, if you know me at all, is a fucking miracle.
4. Change can make you strong
To be honest, change is downright scary. The trick is to see it as something worth conquering. Is there a greater feeling in the world than conquering a fear? Challenging yourself and succeeding?
I get it, most people are perfectly content to live in a bubble. Bubbles are comfortable and cozy, and risks are kept to a minimum. But that’s not really living, is it?
Well, the truth is, it is much easier NOT to change and therein lies the problem.
It’s like when you see someone who has clearly fucked up about something, one thing or another, and refuses to admit their mistake. I see that as weakness, and it makes me sad.
But on the otherhand, when I see great leaders and individuals admit their mistakes, to me that speaks volumes and truly shows someone’s strength and character.
To be honest, I am pretty stubborn. But I have worked very hard over the past year or so to both recognize when I am in the wrong AND admit it and apologize if need be. My god, is there anything harder than that?
That kind of change quite possibly is the most difficult of them all, but it’s one that can really lead to confidence and personal strength, and if you can conquer that, then you can take on anything.
5. Change is a lifestyle
If I admire people who are so confident and strong they can admit their mistakes, then I also equally admire people who are completely open to change and new opportunities, who openly seek to challenge themselves, to learn and to try new things. Those are the kind of people I aspire to be on a daily basis.
Ultimately, change is a choice, one that we all have to make, whether we decide to or not.
I’m nowhere close to perfect, in fact, I am a pretty big mess. But little by little, I am trying to pull myself together, work on becoming a better person, and I have found that change is the cornerstone to this.
I am not special. I am ordinary, just like everyone out there in the world. I’m probably just like you, trying to survive and be the best I can be.
At the risk of sounding like a total douche, I’ll leave you with a Hemingway quote that has resonated with me over the years.
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Change is hard. Change is a battle. But things that you have to fight for generally are worth it in the end. So don’t waste your time and energy comparing yourself with other people.
If you dream big like me, learn to control your fears, learn not to run from change but to embrace it with open arms and move forward into the unknown.
There is nothing more glorious than looking back on your choices with fondness and pride instead of regret.
How do you feel about change?