Junot Diaz once said “It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” In my nearly twenty-two years of living, I have never found a quote to be more achingly true.
Looking back, the most heartbreaking, earth-shattering changes have always had the biggest impacts on my life. But perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and maybe it’s not necessarily an unpleasant reality. Maybe, as humans, we NEED those kinds of changes to shake us to our very cores; to catapult us into a new level of self-reflection, wisdom, and understanding.
Not incredibly long ago, I had gotten out of a three-year relationship due to religious differences. His world became much narrower as I sought to expand mine. Of course, hearts are broken every day. This is nothing new, and I understood this when it happened. What I didn’t understand, however, was the unfairness of how much my life was subjected to change when his did not seem to at all. For so long, I conformed to his conservative ideals and was unaware that I was stunting my own personal growth. For the entire duration of the relationship, I had not taken the time to form my own opinions on so many aspects of life.
When he left, he simply grew stronger in his faith and his community. His convictions were further affirmed, and he received full support from his community. As for me? I was at a complete loss. It was more than just the loss of a person, but a loss of who I was. Who was I without this person, and what did I believe in? In the absence of such a strong influence, I was now left with the task of discovering myself.
Fast forward a year later and I have never been so sure of who I am and what I stand for. For the longest time, I fixated on the painful accuracy of Diaz’s quote. Why did this happen to me? Why did I have to change, and why was this catalyzed by such a painful event? Why didn’t he have to change at all? Now I see that change can be such a beautiful thing, especially when it comes in such an unwanted form. It forces us to reevaluate our lives, our decisions, and our very existence with such ugliness and obligation, making it impossible for us to ignore such an urging need for introspection.
It’s simple for anyone to adhere to a certain lifestyle and to certain habits, refusing to believe that the world consists of only black and white, and no shades of grey. Is it not easier and more relieving to have a foundation already laid for you and a path laid before you, with your only role being to obey? It’s safe. Simple. Clean. Comforting.
But I don’t want that. That’s not me. This life is messy and our world is messy, so who are we to demand simplicity and tidiness by narrowing our very existence? We need change more than anything. It’s biologically engrained in us to change. We change to exist, and more importantly, we change to thrive.