Growing Up Gracefully: How to Be at Peace with Change
It was the first week of summer; the kind of day where there are no clouds in the sky, every neighbor turns on their sprinklers and grills out, and it is just warm enough to go for a pleasant swim under the sun.
I decided to spend it inside my closet covered in dust.
My parents were dappling with the idea of renting out our house for when we visit family every other weekend. And although I am proud of the ribbons listing my accomplishments that adorn the walls of my room, I was not so keen on bragging to strange house guests that I was a “Jr. Hot Air Balloonist” or “4th Grade Spelling Bee Champion.”
The easiest way to clean up any room is to shove everything in the closet, of course, so I opened the closet and found bins filled with relics of my past. I remembered I threw all of my childhood things into those bins five years ago before I left for college, and forgetting my original plan of cleaning my room, I sat down and opened the lid of the first bin.
Like dust, a kind of deep sadness covered every item I pulled out. Amidst the pictures of old friends, letters from past birthdays, and elementary school projects, were reminders of times when I was so, so happy.
I believed I could always count on my family and best friends to live close by; that I would never feel confused on what to do with my life.
Life in college became a lot more complicated than I wanted it to, and as I grew up and said goodbye to friends and experiences I held so dearly, I began to resent change and time moving so quickly, forcing me to move on before I could even begin to pack my bags or let go of things I wanted to keep.
[clickToTweet tweet=”How to Be at Peace with Change” quote=”How to Be at Peace with Change”]
I thought at least I could count on my family reunion to be the same it had always been.
Through my high school and college years, my family’s week-long reunion, the “Oasis,” was the highlight of my year. We would have themed costume parties, sports and dance competitions, and make music videos. We play this really fun, yet slightly terrifying game called, “Murder at Midnight,” which always ended in someone getting hurt because the game is played pitch darkness. One year we set up a poker table and my cousins and I played cards every night until two in the morning.
I was looking forward to “Oasis” this summer, but a lot of my cousins could not come. We are growing up and have jobs and babies we cannot leave. My youngest cousins are going to college, so there is a kind of energy lost that only kids can bring to a vacation. It was a relaxing week with my family, and I loved spending time with them, but it was hard not to notice how much has changed for all of us.
I began to ask my family and friends why things have to change, why people have to move on and grow up, and why it has to be such a difficult process.
A lot of the answers followed the mantra of, “that’s just the way it is,” which did not provide much comfort or guidance in what to do if you want to hold onto things that are inevitably changing.
One evening during our reunion my family went to watch my cousin’s dance performance. My cousin just graduated from high school. She has been dancing every day for months leading up to this showcase. At the end of the show she collapsed into my aunt’s arms, upset that it was over. This would be her last performance with her best friends before going to college in the fall. It was hard for something she loved so much to end.
A month later I helped her move into her dorm and walked with her to her student union before saying goodbye. She was so excited about her new room, and even more excited when she saw a couple of friends she had made during summer orientation. Watching her laugh with her new friends, imagining how much fun she would have the next four years made me think, “Maybe this is the answer for why things must change.”
Images from this summer flash across my mind: my sister pregnant with her first baby, my friend dancing with her husband at her wedding, my grandma laughing while surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
Maybe these are the answers.
When you are losing grip on the things you held onto for so long, the things you believed you could not live without, you can make one of two choices.
You can fruitlessly hold onto the past, fighting against time, and allowing your fears of letting go take another day from you. Or grab onto the only thing you are guaranteed to control, life at this moment, and hold onto it by taking care of the day and the people in it.
I do not know why the experiences, people, and places I loved and counted on always having must change. I do not know why my family is getting older, why my friends moved away from my hometown, or why it is so hard to appreciate good times in the past without missing them desperately.
Maybe I am asking the wrong question. Maybe I am wasting my time trying to figure out why there is pain involved in change, or why change has to happen.
Maybe the question that can be answered is how to make life’s changes and unexpected or unwanted realities less painful – how to be grateful and at peace with where I am in life.
Today, I am alone, driving home along the highway after the weekend helping my cousin move to college. Across the prairies, I see dark clouds and rain coursing down, but above me there is a patch of blue sky and sunshine. I am heading into the storm, but I roll my windows down and turn up the volume to “River” by Leon Bridges.
I’m giving myself a long summer break, deciding to treat every day like vacation until the last school in the U.S. begins classes (I was hoping a school somewhere would wait until October to begin, but I am out of luck).
I bring memories and lessons of this summer to mind, and I find strength within them. To live means to move, to grow, and to change.
[clickToTweet tweet=”To live means to move, to grow, and to change.” quote=”To live means to move, to grow, and to change.”]
I do not want to waste any minute of life; so with my windows down and music up, I decide to take care of today, and the person in it.
Maybe this is the answer.
I am a 23 year old who just completed a year volunteering in Mississippi with AmeriCorps NCCC, trying to figure out what to do next. I received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Human Relations at the University of Oklahoma. My goal is to use my talents of writing to empower young women to become leaders in their field, and gain confidence in doing what makes them come alive. For me, that is reading, writing, spending time with loved ones, and eating the occasional PopTart.