Clean Slate… Right?

Once you make a conscious decision to change, you often get a powerful gust of wind in your sails. The excitement of what is to come bubbles inside you, and you are more motivated than you have been in months, maybe even years. It’s a new dawn, you are starting over. But as those winds of change settle down to a gentle breeze, it’s easy to feel like you are losing yourself – the person people see you as, maybe even the person you see yourself as.

Photo by Sensei Minimal
Photo by Sensei Minimal

Change is never easy – if it was, the human race wouldn’t struggle so much with the concept. We often see our life choices as the things that define us, that make us who we are. Making changes to these things can often be short lived as after the honeymoon period we lose momentum and motivation.

This is where I have found myself the past couple of days. I know I want to make the changes and I know its the right thing to do, but as I sit in front of this blank page I am feeling a little lost. A world full of colour and excitement feels pretty grey and drab today. In this moment, it feels far easier to go back than to sit and stare in to the abyss.

So it got me thinking, when we strip back large parts of our lives and make changes, what are we left with?

The answer for me, is essence.

…the essence of anything is the thing that stays true about them in any situation. And the essence of a penguin is similar to the essence of me… penguins need each other. They look out for the good of the colony. And once a penguin decides to do something there’s no changing her mind. Because the essence of a penguin comes down to this: penguins live in abnormally harsh conditions and they never leave. They’re one of the few species that stays, struggles and perseveres.

Sam Gardner, Atypical

Essence is another slightly clichéd term, like purpose. But then, its clichéd because we don’t understand it, or embrace it. It’s easier to laugh at than it is to consider and appreciate it.

So here goes… My Name is Sam, and I am a penguin.

Ok, so I don’t identify as a penguin. I haven’t lost the plot just yet… but in all seriousness I do feel an affinity with the above quote from my namesake, Sam in the Netflix show Atypical (which, if you haven’t already, is well worth a watch). I need to be around other people, I look out for the good of my people, and once I decide to do something – like this – there is no changing my mind.

Yes, I am starting to struggle, so it’s time to dig in and persevere.

It’s ok to struggle.

Just as life in general, the process of change can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride at times. The highs are great and things seem easy, and the lows are shit and things seem altogether pointless.

So you’re not feeling it today? That’s ok.

You feel like giving up might be easier? That’s ok too.

Take a day off. Watch your favourite TV programme, or put on your favourite film. Order some food & eat your favourite meal. Play on your favourite game. Write an entry in your journal – or start one. Talk to someone if you need to – and if you don’t have anyone to talk to, talk to me!

Having off days is perfectly normal. Don’t lose hope. You got this!

Challenging The Stigma Of Change

I am a strong believer that all stigmas should be challenged and debated – and in modern society we are getting far better at challenging these preconceptions. Social stigmas surrounding mental health, culture, gender, sexuality are often challenged and rightly so – but the social stigma surround change, especially from those closest to us, is rarely discussed.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero
Photo by Matheus Ferrero

stigma

noun

disapproval or discrimination associated with a particular circumstance or characteristic, particularly those that distinguish and individual or group from the rest of society.

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives, on both sides of this coin. Either the one on the receiving end, or the one of those people dishing it out. It’s often put forward as a joke, or banter (I will do a future post on my disdain for this word). Sometimes it is even badged as life guidance or advice. In rarer and more extreme circumstances it can even be manipulation or an intervention.

It’s that moment when you, or a friend / family member announces they are making a life change. Whether it be a new hobby, a change of career, becoming vegan, a new partner, moving home, moving country, and so on. In that moment, many supportive friends and family members will provide neutral or positive responses, some will offer encouragement, however there are always those dissenting voices. As I mention above, it will often be delivered as a joke aimed to belittle your decision or take the piss (poking fun, for any readers from across the Atlantic). Sometimes its instantaneous, other times its behind your back, or later down the line, but it always seems to crop up, and it always seems to be those people closest to us that deliver the gut punch.

When challenged on this, the defences will range from “come on, it’s a joke” to “well you’ve brought this on yourself, its a silly decision” to “look, all I am saying is, you might want to rethink this”.

Status Quo

But why the hell do they do it? To maintain the status quo. No, not the band… but rather the maintaining of the current situation. Although now I mention it, the lyrics to one of their greatest hits – Down, Down are rather fitting;

I want all the world to see

To see you’re laughing, and you’re laughing at me

Status Quo

See, if you change then it impacts the equilibrium for others. You aren’t the same person you were, and that is too much for some people to accept. Forget that you might be happier & healthier, the important factor for these people is that you aren’t the person you are today… and that prospect frightens some people.

Does this change mean you won’t see them as much? Potentially make new friends? Live further away? Do things they wish they could do? Be more successful? Find true happiness?

For some, those questions will strike fear in to their hearts. They look to a future where you are no longer giving them what you currently do, rather than thinking about how amazing the change could be for you.

Stand And Deliver

These attitudes and the stigma it has created are exactly what we need to challenge. Trying something new, whether we fail or succeed, is crucial to our happiness. We need to stand and deliver a robust response when people decide to joke about our life choices or belittle them in anyway, whether its our parents, siblings, our best friends, colleagues or anyone else for that matter.

If following challenge they aren’t prepared to provide support and take it seriously, then ultimately they don’t deserve to be a part of the future you. Who needs negativity and nastiness in their lives?

Also, shout out to those who noticed me take my musical references from the 70’s through to the 80’s here with Adam and The Ants…

A Little Respect

I’ve started, so I am going to have to continue… In to the late 80’s with Erasure. I may be a 90’s kid, but you’ve got to appreciate the classics!

To be clear, the above is not suggesting that we should have tunnel vision and be ignorant to everyone and everything around us. It is really important to have respect for those closest to us and their views. Healthy debate and challenge is great and helps us focus and make solid and informed decisions. But that respect needs to go both ways. There will be people around you whose views and advice you may want to consider, so engage with them, have that open and honest debate… but also set the ground rules.

It isn’t a chance to belittle you or your vision, but a chance to help you shape it. If they want to input in to your future, and you are happy for them to do it, make it an investment.

Who Do You Believe In?

I believe in you. You should too. Ultimately we either have to be prepared to take some risks, albeit calculated wherever possible, or accept the current situation. Whatever your decision is, back yourself. If you don’t, you can’t expect those around you to invest in your vision either.

It’s ok to stay where you are if that’s what makes you happy, just as it’s ok to make wholesale changes. Society seems to have an unwritten rulebook when it comes to these things. It’s time to tear that work of fiction up, throw it out of the window and write your own future.

Lets see who is on the ball with their musical references – for this last one its a song released in 1999. If you know the artist, drop the answer in the comments!