Before I turned 18, my family had moved houses seven times.
I told myself that the constant moving had made me good at dealing with change. I prided myself on this.
The ruse came crashing down when I was faced with an impossible choice in late 2017: to stay in my hometown of Pretoria, the city I knew, with my family and my friends, or move to Cape Town, away from my family and friends, away from the known.
I had job offers in each city, and though very different, both were jobs I’d only dreamed of having, jobs that would teach me so much and do a lot for my infantile career in writing and publishing. Neither was perfect, but the pros and cons almost balanced out.
I was torn between the two different cities, jobs, and life paths that lay before me.
I’ve since learned I’m not only terrified of change, I’m terrible at dealing with it. It makes me feel completely out of control. In the midst of change, I retreat into myself and shut down emotionally, walking around in a dazed funk. I become cranky and angsty, and cling to anything that smacks of the familiar.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’m no psychologist, but I’d venture that being scared of and uncomfortable with change is part of the basic human condition.
Change hurtles us headfirst into the unexpected, the unknown, and the unpredictable. Change removes any sense of control we might have.
But, I believe that change and newness are imperative to a healthy, creative, and fulfilling life. I believe that if we don’t keep changing ourselves and our contexts, introducing ourselves to new situations, new places, and spaces, new books, new experiences, new people, we’ll stagnate. Every area of our lives will run dry, and we’ll run aground in burnout and depression. There are very few things I want less for myself than a stale life.
As I was fighting my reptilian want-the-worst-for-me brain and my inner resistance, stuck between the two cities and the two jobs, I came across a quote from Kuan Yin:
“There is no right or wrong path. There is only the path that you choose. Whatever you choose, there will be many opportunities to grow and expand.”
The immense relief I got from reading that borders on the religious. There is no right or wrong choice.
Suddenly, I was free from needing to make the “right” choice, the “best” choice, the one I wouldn’t regret, the one that wouldn’t ruin my life, the universe, and everything. I memorized the quote and forged it into a mental weapon against the fears and doubts that assailed me. I stepped back and my life unfolded. I made the move to Cape Town–and I overflow with gratefulness that I did.
I still wouldn’t call myself good at dealing with change, or good at making choices. Even after I made the move, I battled tumultuous emotions and doubts. I think that with time and conscious effort, I’ll get better, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be worthy of those titles. And that’s okay. I still intend to live a good and richly diverse and ever-changing life.
I’ve gathered together 20 quotes which had meaning to me before, during, and after the move. Whatever choice or change you’re facing, may they help you to move through it in the most beautiful way:
1. “There is no right or wrong path. There is only the path that you choose. Whatever you choose, there will be many opportunities to grow and expand.” ~ Kuan Yin
2. “To know serenity the dove must fly/far from it’s alcove…” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
3. “To be human is the most ridiculous and most painful and most beautiful incarnation in town. You never know what’s coming. It’s terrifying, but I’ll take it. I’ll take the whole ride.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
4. “The art of living is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging on the other. It consists of being completely sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.” ~ Alan Watts
5. “Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
6. “My destiny is louder than my comfort.” ~ Yrsa Daley-Ward
7. “I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.” ~ L. M. Montgomery
8. “Oh my life is changing every day/In every possible way/And oh my dreams/It’s never quite as it seems.” ~ The Cranberries
9. “Anything new we do creates an opportunity to reveal parts of ourselves that were hidden.” ~ Paul Jun
10. “The only guarantee if you live a life of bravery is you’re going to have your ass handed to you. That’s part of the process.” ~ Brené Brown
11. “When a shift as big as this is imposed on your life, you have no choice but to endure, learn, and reflect.” ~ Unknown
12. “It is always changing, and I am always falling, and failing, and feeling. It is good and awful, and really mad and it is magic.” ~ Ruby Mary Gill
13. “Don’t be afraid of failure. Make big mistakes, make them fast, and you’ll find your strength.” ~ Susan Sarandon
14. “There aren’t right or wrong choices. It’s about the intent with which you move forward.” ~ Danielle Clough
15. “Which do you want? The pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growth?” ~ J.H. Lasater
16. “Fly on/fearful one/the world is full of beauty/wherever you may find it.” ~ Thandi Sliepen
17. “Certainty, in art and in life, is not only completely over-rated, it’s actually a roadblock to discovery.” ~ Austin Kleon
18. “Choose curiosity over fear.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
19. “It’s okay not to know what’s next in the future, it’s okay to figure it out as you go, and it’s alright not to plan everything to a T.” ~ Adelle Nqeto
20. “The wandering that you’re doing, that you’ve done, is normal. And kind of beautiful. And not something that you need to be stressed out about. You’re on a path. You don’t know where it’s going, and that would be kind of boring if you did.” ~ Hank Green