Me and my partner spent the last year (from August 2017 to May 2018) in a city further up north. It was a smaller place with greater distances to big cities, almost always at least a three-hour bus ride away, which meant that we were pretty stuck in that place.
I was quite busy that year with my journalism studies that were very practical instead of theoretical, and spent nearly eight hours every day at school doing tv, radio or writing.
However, in addition to all that time I spent in school, I had a great deal of time on my hands. Probably even more than I have now. I’ve talked about having too much time on one’s hands before but in that city, Time was given to me and my partner in handfuls.
All that time we had – what did we do with it?
We did the basic stuff: went on walks, watched tv-series (Mindhunters being one of the best ones we saw) and movies, read books and cooked food. However, we still had time to spend. So, we got some painting supplies and created our own paintings that we hung on the walls. We came up with a proper workout routine and started going to the gym. We both did some changes to our diets (which always requires time and energy for the change to become routine). My partner got into creating his art and soon after that, I started writing on a daily basis.
These things we did had a huge effect on my life:
During that year I lost almost a quarter of my weight. I also decided to change and challenge my career plans and started to realize that my people-pleasing behavior wasn’t benefitting me in any way.
In a way, it was a crazy year. But it was also one of the best years from the perspective of personal growth and development (the picture I used for this blog post shows me on a day I was super proud of myself).
As long as we lived in that smaller city up north, I had time to get used to the physical and mental changes that were happening in me. For instance, I was able to take in and process the confusing comments from sales persons in two different clothing stores who guessed and complimented my size and my body as if I had always been that way.
No one asked me any questions (because almost no one seemed to notice the changes, funny enough). Instead, I was the one asking myself all kinds of things: How had I been able to do all these changes? Was I on the right path? Was this what I wanted? Who was I now, compared to who I was before?
(I haven’t quite yet answered all those questions but I’m getting there, slowly and surely.)
However, when we returned back to the city we had left from a year before, the changes became real – now through the reflections of everyone else.
Especially the weight I had lost seemed to get many people’s attention. My mother came to me and patted my stomach, wondering how I had become so thin. My grandmother asked me how I had lost so much weight, and a guest at a party commented in a loud voice how much I had changed since she last saw me.
All these comments were compliments – in one way. But at the same time, not all of them were genuine happy-for-you kind of comments. Many of the compliments were mixed with confusion or had a hint of jealousy or frustration in them. It was as if people became unsure of who I was and how they should be in my company.
In the same way, as I tried to explain to friends why I was thinking of changing my career plans, many of them had a hard time understanding my decision. They had always thought of me in one way (someone who wanted to become a journalist), and now I was saying I wanted to do something else? Instead of being supportive they kept on asking how come I was changing my mind now.
I’ve written about changing my people-pleasing behavior in previous blog posts. It hasn’t been conflict-free, either.
The past months have been eye-opening when it comes to personal changes.
I was pretty happy and confident with the changes I had made and reached, and still am. However, as I saw how other people reacted to the changes I had made or was making, I reacted to their reactions. The pride I felt about the major life changes got mixed with confusion, sometimes even regret.
I couldn’t help but wonder: were all my changes worth this emotional rollercoaster? It became clear to me that my personal growth and development seemed to come at the expense of my social relations.
I also thought this: why does it feel like no one talks about these aspects of change? As if every article I’ve read is about making a change and getting there – but so few of them, if any, talk about the things that follow when a change has been made.
Why do we want change, but when it comes, we aren’t that willing to accept and adjust to it?
It’s been a rollercoaster, these past four months. And let me tell you: it will continue for a while.