I love structure. As much as I try to be hip and flexible, to just go with the goddamn flow, I’m wired differently. I like routines, schedules, and knowing what’s coming down the pipeline. I get the same thrill from new planners that I do from old books. I’m not the tragically creative night-owl writer a few of my internet peeps have suspected. I’m the introverted version of that perky, morning person you want to slap.
After a discussion of the creation of a trauma-based mental health care plan for the students in my local district in January, a friend called me after the meeting in the remote version of the conversation after the conversation. His first words?
“Don’t take this the wrong way ’cause I think it’s great, but you’ve changed.”
Now, ‘you’ve changed’ is not generally a sentiment thrown in my direction. While I can write the idea of change into this delicate, fragile beauty, change itself isn’t like that. It’s risk. It’s blood.
If change were a dinner guest, I’d be looking at her out the corner of my eye while she carved her knife into the table and threw her glass at the wall. She’s hot, but she also terrifies me. 360+ days ago, she set up camp in my living room and refused to budge. As long as the world was on fire, she wanted to stay.
Towards the fifth month of lockdown, the other end of my personality pendulum started looking mighty good. I was an introvert who missed crowds, a solitary bookworm who wanted group movie nights, and a homebody who wanted to be a wild child. The ‘as-long-as-everybody’s-happy’ person and the ‘never-say-no-to-an-authority-figure’ child didn’t live here in the fifth month of lockdown. (Sidenote: she has not returned.) Brutal honesty, all the way.
Being completely out of practice with standing up for my needs, it wasn’t pretty. Picture a toddler who just overheard his parent saying “motherfucker” and is now cheerily repeating it all over the place. Burned bridges barely held together by my complacency. Blew up foundations. Exposed creepy-crawlies under the rocks then sat in the mud muttering to myself ‘who cares? the world is on fire.’ Family, friends, acquaintances, internet peeps, didn’t matter: they all got the most wishy-washy, wobbliest version of myself I’ve ever been.
At times, change can be a fickle visitor blowing in and out like an ocean breeze.
2020 was not one of those times.
Two weeks ago, I went back and re-read one of my pieces from the tail end of 2017 and couldn’t connect with it. I remembered writing those words, thinking those opinions, but they weren’t mine anymore.
Curious, I re-read a few more of my pieces from 2018 and 2019 and felt a surge of confused fondness like I’d feel for a stranger. As if lockdown illuminated the-whole-and-real-person AND showed that I’d been suppressing far too much of her. Reading back through them and comparing them to writings from 2020 was like having a weird conversation between two people who remembered the same events very differently.
You don’t have any childhood trauma? That’s nice.
Oh, you’re happy with the choices you’ve made-no major regrets?
You’re completely fine if moving abroad never happens for you?
You’ll have time to dream and adventure when you’re 80?
Being angry should be avoided at all costs?
On and on it went. Without my writings (and emotions graph-you don’t want to know), I don’t think I’d have realized how drastically my worldview and perspective have changed while living through Groundhog Day monotony. The big-hearted compassion’s still there. The grace is still there. The feistiness of going to bat for the underdog is still there. I’ve simply learned to extend and demand those things for myself as well.
The world is still on fire. Life is still short and fleeting. I’m still waking to the same routines of tea, two dogs, and eggs on toast. I’m still struggling with some of the same apprehensions. I’ve still got a few of the same longings. There’s no wrong way through feeling trapped in a rut you didn’t even make. No shame here if you’re burned out, sick and tired, stretching for a small amount of “pandemic normalcy” with warmer weather.
Some days, you’ll find all the beauty you can carry in your hands and hoard the happiness in your pockets. You’ll hit your goals, get a speck of novelty, or make your own adventure. Other days, you’ll dig through another piece of trauma-either yours or someone else’s-and at times, those days will be the same ones. You’ll think “nothing’s changed.”
But, you have.
You’ve learned to shut the hell up so others can outcry their pain. You’ve learned that you are both not as strong as you think and stronger than you ever imagined. You’ve learned to cherish the people you needed during a certain version of yourself and to let them go when they wanted to leave. You’ve learned that love comes in multiple ways, and you’ll miss it under your nose if you’re constantly chasing the horizon.
You’ve imagined and daydreamed countless worlds and acted to make your corner of this beat-up country a little better than you found it. You’ve imagined the possibilities of everyone feeling safe enough to relax their fists. You’ve daydreamed about a country where every person is safe, seen, and loved.
You’ve marveled at the creative problem solving of your neighbors. You’ve mourned countless dead and dying. You’ve made so much progress just by accepting that personal progress isn’t linear and hustle culture progress isn’t an urgent priority.
2020 was a barefoot-untouched luggage-unfulfilled yearning-slow soil growth-waiting wanderlust year. 2021 might be a little different but don’t lose that stillness. The good bits of the various versions of yourself. That human ability to mourn huge losses and celebrate small wins. The recognition that the lights will come back on, and the lows won’t stick around forever.
Everything changes eventually.
Even and especially you.
Believe it or not, change may be a crazy chick, but she means the best.