I’d never been the type of person to fear change.
I was always drawn to the idea of totally uprooting my life and leaving everything behind. The alternative—choosing to stay within my comfort zone—seemed like the less interesting path, and I couldn’t wrap my head around why other people didn’t have the same desire for change that I did.
But last summer, when I was getting ready to embark on a solo backpacking trip around Europe after my undergrad, I found I was absolutely terrified to leave.
This was an amazing opportunity and an experience I’d always dreamed of. Why, then, was I so afraid?
I had uprooted in the past because I was either trying to get away from something back home or because I thought I could “find myself” elsewhere. This time, I wasn’t leaving because I needed to; I was leaving because I wanted to. But that also meant I was saying goodbye to a life and version of myself that I actually, sort of, liked.
Growth doesn’t happen in the comfort of routine.
It’s easy to continue with our lives the way they are because everything is going well, and we don’t want to disturb that. But change is even more momentous when we’re right in the midst of comfort, because that disruption brings to the surface all the dust that had settled into the threads of the carpet. (Or maybe that disruption causes us to realize a blue carpet actually brings the room to life a whole lot more than the red one did before it.)
Opportunities for change, whether good or bad, don’t always come at the perfect moment. So how can we make the process of change easier when we’re not quite ready for it?
1. Make your rounds.
For me, one of the hardest parts of leaving Montreal, where I was living at the time, was the connection I’d made with my yoga studio.
A few days before I was set to leave, I decided to give the studio a handmade card with a note about what practicing there had meant to me over the past few years. I walked home that day with tears in my eyes, feeling glad that even though I was leaving, I left a little part of me there, too.
There is cleansing in goodbye. By making our rounds, we can transition into the next part of our lives without the past hanging over us. For some, that means making a card. For others, it’s one last walk through a favourite park. Or it’s throwing a goodbye party and making a big speech about what all those people have meant to you.
Often, change can be a catalyst for actions that we might have never found the courage to do otherwise.
2. Start packing slowly.
I started my packing venture a few weeks in advance to prepare mentally for this change and reflect on the life I was leaving.
As I packed away my life from the past four years, I relived the memories nestled into the soft cotton of my knit sweaters, in the rusted kettle from making too much tea, in the stained red wine glasses I’d shared with friends.
Packing can be healing if we allow ourselves to really feel what we’re moving on from rather than quickly shoving all those memories into a suitcase and never thinking about them again.
Like saying goodbye, this act of self-reflection gives us the space in our hearts to accept the change and let go so we can then move on.
3. Focus on the future.
Of course leaving our lives behind is hard, but there is so much to look forward to with whatever our next step is. We leave friends behind, but there are always new connections to make (and a multitude of ways to stay in touch). We leave behind our yoga studio in one place; we find another one with a whole new community of people. We leave behind a routine; we are creatures of habit, and routine follows us wherever we go.
If we look to the future through a lens of gratitude, we won’t focus so much on the pain of what we’re leaving behind. Rumination won’t fix or help anything—it will only keep our minds stuck in the past while our bodies, inevitably, go forward.
The whole other side to change is that it soon becomes our new normal and, somewhere down the line, we find we don’t want to leave that life, either. I ended up visiting Montreal again a year later after my trip. I walked through the university campus, explored my old neighbourhoods, had a pint in my favourite pub, passed by the front window of my yoga studio, and I realized something: the life I was so afraid of leaving was still there when I went back.
The only difference was me.
Author: Naomi Boshari
Image: Courtesy of @umairshaikh/Instagram
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Lindsey Block