Six months ago, if you told me where I’d be today, I would’ve laughed in your face.
I was in a serious mid-20s slump. I was two years out of university, three years single, and two and half years into a career I barely gave a shit about.
Through a lot of changes – some minor, some major – I’m in a place in my life I never would’ve thought possible. While I can’t condense my experience into a bulleted listicle, I have learned some key lessons. Mostly the hard way.
1. Growing as a person is different than changing yourself to fit in.
Losing negative aspects of your character doesn’t mean you’re selling out, no matter what your friends say. Not going out six nights a week doesn’t mean you’re condemned to reruns of Friends and sad-looking takeout dinners on your couch. Starting to take your job seriously, even if it isn’t glamorous – especially if it isn’t glamorous – does not make you lame. The same way you can’t compare your intro to someone else’s second act, do not feel pressured to stay on chapter one because the people around you haven’t picked up the book yet.
2. You can’t change the people you love.
There is no route to making this happen if it isn’t supposed to. Killing them with kindness makes you seem needy and will push them away. Constantly giving unasked for advice makes them feel undermined. Telling them they can’t do something makes you at the very least an asshole, at most a controlling psychopath. People grow at their own rate, and screaming at a tree has never made the branches stronger. All you can do is be yourself, and more importantly – be there for them.
3. You shouldn’t try to change them, anyway.
Trying to change them stems from trying to make them more like you. You love them because they are not you, and compliment you in a way to make up for the things you lack. Even if you did successfully change them, you’d be left with someone different than the person you loved. And if that’s what you want, then why did you love them in the first place? People are works in progress, but they are not your project. Friends and family may have potential, but you cannot love them only for their potential.
4. There are no big changes, only large collections of small ones.
Moving cities is less about changing your life and more about changing your friend groups, bedtime, commute, and how you spend your free time. Switching jobs is just changing your pay grade, hours, responsibilities, and coworkers. There is no change so monumental that it cannot be broken down into manageable components, no matter how it may seem at the time. Realizing this prevents paralyzing fear when a real change is necessary. Mentally move through each component, and move on.
5. The largest results come from the largest collections of changes.
There are few changes you can make so large that they can’t be undone. You can always move back across the country, find another job in your field, or go back to school. There will always be more opportunities for experiences right in front of you, no matter how old or young you may be – but that shouldn’t prevent you from at least attempting them now. To see big changes in your satisfaction with your circumstances, you need to be willing to make large changes in the circumstances themselves. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself six months down the road with someone you love, in a city you love, working at something you love.
I know I did.