For so long I didn’t want to change. I thought change would be seen by others as weakness. And I also thought that change would be too uncomfortable. This is a belief that goes all the way back to high school and probably all the way back to my childhood. It’s something that was partially handed to me by my upbringing and my religion, but it’s also something I chose for myself – I wore it like a warm sweater, I wore it like armor.
I can remember, back when I was a senior in high school, fearing that I would change. I was scared that college would force me to compromise my values, or show me that my values were not what I wanted to believe. I was so committed to not changing that it hurt me. As I grew from a boy into a man, I shut myself off from allowing my mind and my soul to evolve.
Back in 9th grade I remember learning about the ancient Chinese ritual of foot binding. Centuries ago (and even in the past century) Chinese women (especially those belonging to the upper class) would have their feet bound tightly to stop them from growing. This would keep the feet small by causing the foot to pretty much fold-in on itself. I can’t imagine the pain this caused. And it also caused infection in the foot and especially in the toes, which sometimes resulted in the toe nails being removed. Imagine that pain!
In a way, this is what I did to my soul. I bound it. I kept it from growing.
I can go into the reasons I did this. There were family beliefs and religious beliefs that were major contributors. I was raised not to question certain things. I was taught not to trust my instincts.
It was just recently that I finally realized what I had been doing to myself. And I committed to changing. It wasn’t an easy decision and it definitely was scary and continues to be scary. But I am now starting to see that it’s all worth it.
Not too long ago, I was listening to a podcast and they were talking about how up until the age of 25 it’s very easy for a person to change who they are. The mind isn’t fully developed until that age and it’s very easy to change habits and patterns – both on the outside and on the inside. But once a person gets north of 25, then change becomes much more difficult. Reminds me of the old saying: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
However, someone older than 25 certainly can change or be changed. But usually this only happens as a response to trauma. I guess, the things that have happened to me have been traumatic enough to push me to change. In fact, the shit that has happened to me did change me – it had to. I always knew that. I just had to decide if I was going to change for the better of for the worse. I chose for the better.
But I don’t believe that people over the age of 25 can only change as a result of trauma. I think we are all strong enough and smart enough to change no matter how old we are. The problem is that most people don’t want to change. Most people don’t even realize they need to change.
So people will rail against the world. They will rage against their life and the people in it. They will find fault with how their spouse sips his coffee, or how their co-worker is too cheery in the morning. They will scream at the driver who didn’t let them pull out of McDonald’s while silently cursing the 19-year-old worker who took 30 seconds too long to hand a coffee out the drive-thru window.
I’ve been there. I still go there. But you know what? The world isn’t going to change to make me happy. Neither is life. It doesn’t matter how much I curse it or shake my fist at it or spit at it. The only thing I can change is myself. As difficult as that might seem. It can happen. And it must.
So what was always holding me back? What holds everyone back?
Well, I already mentioned fear. And that was certainly true when I was younger. And it continues to be true. The second reason for not changing sooner is that I didn’t really realize I needed to change. I was so caught-up in my everyday life and trying to be good (while not feeling good) that I didn’t know I was going about everything wrong. I was trying to hustle so much to be who I thought others thought I should be, and to try to make myself feel good, that I was totally floundering in the dark.
Finally, the third reason I think most people don’t change is that it takes time. People will buy these self-help books or listen to a Ted Talk on YouTube and get inspired for a short time and then stop trying when they don’t feel differently within a day or two or even a week or two. Change takes time. It’s a slow process. And it’s a forever ongoing process.
Everything in the universe is always evolving and expanding. So, we must too. If we don’t then we will never be truly who we’re meant to be. If we don’t change then will be left behind. And nobody wants to be left behind, whether they realize it or not.
It reminds me of the line that Andy said to Red in the movie Shawshank Redemption: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice: Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
And it does come down to a simple choice for all of us every single day. Stick to what we know and close off our hearts and minds or stay open and learn and grow.
Change can be scary. I know. And being consistent and solid can be seen as a good thing. I certainly took value from it for much of my life. But that is not who I want to be. I can’t be that person and truly live. I have to change. I have to grow. I have to expand. Only then, will I be the person I want to be – a person who won’t be the same person today that I was yesterday, or the same person tomorrow that I am today.
Change is a good thing. It’s not weakness. And it’s not bad. I’m not committed to changing and growing to please others or to look good to others. I am doing it for me. It’s what I want. It’s what I need. It’s a major part of who I want to be – for me. It is not strength or weakness, good or bad. It simply is. And that’s all it should be.