I used to be afraid of change.
I avoided it at all costs and found that change deeply unnerved me. It felt threatening to my emotional equilibrium. It broke down the walls of stability I’d spent my life creating, making me uncomfortably vulnerable. The scale of an impending change that loomed in front of me mattered not. Whether it be a slight change of timing or switch of evening plans or the death of a loved one— no matter the circumstances, any change I faced would inevitably be a catalyst for an existential crisis, leading me to question everything and everyone and whether or not I could count on anything of permanence when it could so easily change with the snap of a finger. For one reason or another, I spent my life believing that predictability equaled dependability and dependability equaled safety. Naturally, I became conditioned to crave and thrive when I felt securely wrapped within a warm cocoon of routine, predictability, and a very black and white outlook on life.
But then life changed. Like, really changed. And, as a result, I changed, too.
At age nineteen, I was set up with a twenty-one year old man whose life I almost immediately (and rather terrifyingly) pictured being intertwined with my own for as long as we both shall live. Naturally, he didn’t. We dated for a few years only to break up a few times, igniting existential quarter-life crisis #1 and #2. As you could have guessed, we ultimately made up and made Marlo in August of 2011. The day after my birthday in March of the following spring, we asked a judge to legally bind us together as partners even though we had felt like family for years. Our daughter was born in May. Hubby got accepted into NYU in August and, on December 13th, 2012, away we went. We left both of our families in the middle of winter to the one city in the world where you can ache of isolation and feel suffocated by claustrophobia simultaneously. Did I mention we did this all with an infant? And while I was very much suffering from severe postpartum depression? In the following two years, I managed to require two emergency organ removals, lost an alarming amount of weight, became a shell of my former self, threatened divorce as a result of my unhappiness, then worked like hell to pull myself together. And I did— at least as much as I could manage to function only to very quickly get pregnant with our second baby.
As the years spent in New York unfolded, most of the time I felt as if I were in survival mode— merely taking the gut punches of change life kept throwing at me and tried to remain afloat. Much to my surprise, I survived. Through hindsight, I’ve come to realize that while that chapter of my life was impossibly complicated and often felt paralyzingly terrifying, change can’t kill you. Over time, I even came to learn that it can even become a form of liberation and a bottomless well of excitement and personal growth when you’re brave enough to step outside of your comfort zone
Which brings me to today and my recent decision to paint our living room walls pink.
For the almost three and a half years after we moved back to Charlotte from Brooklyn, the majority of the walls in my century-old home were a delightful shade of gray. When we bought our home in 2015 on a wine buzz-induced whim off of the internet and site unseen, slathering the interior of the house in any of the four million different shades of gray felt safe. I considered white only to remember that I have children and I don’t particularly fancy spending the bulk of my day scrubbing peanut butter, goldfish crumbs, and feces-covered fingerprints off of of the bedroom walls. So, gray it was. Gray Owl, specifically, and for the bulk of these last three-plus years, I’ve never regretted going gray. Then, recently, I found myself feeling indescribably annoyed and filled with an almost physical dread every time I’d walk into our living room. I couldn’t seem to shake it. Then, one random afternoon, I walked into the living room and, like most epiphanies do, it finally came to me: I needed change. I was physically craving it and the magnetic pull to switch things up was unshakeable.
And so I did. I chose the color and painted the walls pink, never once questioning myself nor attempt to talk myself out of it even though I couldn’t be further from a pink kind of girl. And you know what?!? I FUCKING LOVE IT!! It is nearly if not completely impossible to walk into my living room and feel anything other than unbridled happiness.
(It’s still growing on Joe. Which may or may not have something to do with having conveniently left out the specific chosen color when we discussed painting the room but I am a firm believer that it’s always better to ask for forgiveness than permission so. Personally, I think he’ll learn to love it…)
All of this just to say that, ultimately, embracing change isn’t just about stepping outside of your comfort zone. Rather, elective change is standing firmly behind an intentional commitment to vulnerability and expanding beyond what feels safe and easy. As inconsequential and frivolous as painting my walls pink is, I’ve still found personal growth in listening to what my body was telling me and taking the opportunity to do something about it by embracing a new direction that felt less safe than it’ predecessor. Sometimes, saying “FUCK IT!” and simply going for it feels better than hiding behind your own self-imposed parameters that could be preventing you from feeling high on fucking life at the sight of your new living room walls.
Change is scary.
But change can also be really fucking exhilarating and, on occasion, really, really pretty.