How Moving House Reminded Me to Embrace Change and 8 Ways You Can Too
On Sunday, I'll be moving out of a home I've lived in for almost three years. It doesn't seem significant at all when I put it like that, given that I moved around a fair bit at the start of my London journey - from a best friends' spare room, to Clapham, then Camden and now Hammersmith - all in the space of a few short months. But this move is different, and in some ways, probably always will be.
I moved into this house as a fairly new to London, social, 24-year old, in the summer of 2018, incredibly excited for all the possibilities and experiences that lay ahead of me. I honestly had the best, and most carefree, six months until I found out I needed brain surgery that December.
Although I did amazing things in the following six months - travelling to Mexico, Copenhagen and walking 50 miles for Brainstrust - I also spent a lot of late nights truly devastated and petrified in my bedroom, whilst suffering worsening dizzy spells and feeling mostly alone with the ticking time bomb inside my head.
Despite choosing to keep my surgery a secret through the determination that it wasn't going to change me, it still did. I hid away as much as I could during those months because I quickly realised that it only ever took one good day - a reminder of everything great in my life that I was soon taking a break from - or one bad day - a reminder of how overwhelming I found everything - to bring me to tears.
So instead, I spent much of my free time secretly getting frequent MRI scans to monitor the growth rate of the tumour, specialist surgical opinions and treatment for the dizziness. In a way, I was so relieved when my date for brain surgery finally arrived. I naively thought it would just "fix" everything so that I could hurry back to my 'normal' life and how I'd been living it prior to becoming so filled with dread.
Long story short - that never happened. The cerebellum stroke I suffered, during brain surgery, resulted in me moving back to my mom's house to recover and requiring daily physio to walk, write and even use a straw again. My vision was greatly impaired, resulting in more surgery to alleviate some of the double vision and nystagmus, and I recently had facial reanimation surgery in the hopes of improving my ability to smile - almost two years later.
Read also: Another Tick to the Surgery Bucket List
When I did eventually move back to London during the early stages of my recovery, it wasn't at all a typical 20-something house share that I first envisioned. Instead of boozy brunches, rooftop sunshine and after work socials with everyone, my inability to walk alone meant that I became isolated and confined to the house.
When my housemates were around, I'd have to ask them to wash my hair, walk with me to the doctors and get my groceries for me. And when I could eventually do those things for myself, we were then struck by a global pandemic. So aside from the odd walk, or short-lived Eat Out to Help Out scheme last summer, I’ve never really left this house. And because of that, there has always been a bit of a dark cloud looming over it, where I still feel stuck in a recovery bubble.
As much as I adore this house, there was a very small window of time when I actually enjoyed it the way I intended to; the following two years have been consumed by anxious preparations for three surgeries and isolated recovery periods.
I firmly believe that you are the person you present to the world but still currently spending every second in the place that housed the biggest transition of my life, has meant that recovery life has become a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy for me. In a way, being in the place where I spent so much time recovering, from a major life trauma, has held me back from reaching outside of my comfort zone in the same way that I used to; fearing that I'm "not yet ready" to do certain things.
My upcoming house move got me thinking of all the changes in my life over the past five years, and left me making a late-night list to reconfirm those. On that list were those obvious, big life changes that happened in the past couple of years, but then there were also the less obvious changes, like differences in friendship groups, jobs and even creative pursuits and hobbies.
I needed this list to validate just how much has actually changed in my life before now, and all the good that eventually came as a result, to make my upcoming move less scary. I needed the peace of mind that came with reflecting on previous life changes, knowing that regardless of whether or not I chose the changes that occurred, each one worked out and shaped who I am right now.
The bottom line is that life is full of changes and we don't always get to prepare, or make a plan, for many of these. But each change presents an opportunity to grow and become a better, more capable person.
When we resist those changes, we ultimately deprive ourselves of experiences that can truly transform our lives. So, whilst my room is currently a moving mess, and I'm scared to death of entering unfamiliar surroundings, I know deep down that I need this change. I need to remove the recovery safety net I've been clinging onto whilst living here, and excitedly anticipate a fresh start: new location, new friendships, new adventures.
8 Ways to Embrace Changes and Trust that the Best Is Yet to Come:
1. Know that you will experience constant change.
We often dislike what operates outside of our comfort zones and resist constant changes. Even when that change is positive, our brains are still challenged to adapt to something new which causes feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and a general lack of familiarity. But with change comes the chance of beautiful opportunities and personal growth. Get comfortable knowing that life will be full of many changes, but also many opportunities to experience new things, and evolve as a person, which is a good thing!
2. Purposely seek the positives.
Whether that’s new people you’ve met because of this change, new healthy habits you’ve adopted or new perspectives on the way you now choose to live. Embracing change encourages you to grow, and whilst it can’t always be easily seen at first, writing down the positives can cement the benefits that have come out of the change. Ask yourself “what can I learn from this change?” and “what can I take responsibility for within this situation?” You’re less likely to feel powerless, helpless, or stuck when you actively look for empowering lessons, and opportunities to develop.
3. Reframe perspectives and thoughts.
The language you attach to your experiences and the thoughts you think are so powerful in determining the outcome you will have. Rather than fearing the uncertainty that comes with change, take the time to imagine the best possible outcome, and believe that you have the capacity to make that positive result a reality.
4. Find a healthy release to channel feelings.
Being able to effectively embrace change doesn't mean that you won't ever experience distress, upset, or other negative emotions that come with uncertainty. But by channeling those feelings in healthy ways - such as journaling, participating in activities you enjoy, exercising or just indulging in time for yourself - you can learn to express them in positive, constructive ways; learning about yourself in the process and adding further meaning to your life.
5. Be proactive with the things that are in your control.
Moving forwards and embracing change really means getting comfortable with the belief that so many of the changes we face will be outside of our control. Separate out the things you can't control with the things you can, and be proactive with those changes to increase your sense of empowerment, and significance. For example, deciding where I had brain surgery allowed me to regain a little control over a mostly uncontrollable situation.
6. Avoid comparing your journey.
Especially with your previous self, or with others you see on social media. It's helpful to remember that most people only post a highlight reel of their lives, and are dealing with their own stresses that you’ll know nothing about. What's really important is just focusing on yourself, and your successes. Don't get caught up with the person you were before, either. Instead, strive every day to be better than the person you were yesterday.
7. Reinvent yourself.
Declutter old habits, routines and belongings, and make room for things in your life that represent who you are right now. Not only does the clearance of items free up physical space, it also opens up emotional space for exciting new possibilities.
8. Try something new and exciting.
The act of leaving our comfort zones can leave us in vulnerable states as we often let the fear of the unknown hold us back in life. But trying new things can reduce your fear associated with change, and open your mind to learn, grow and ultimately develop fresh perspectives on yourself, and the world.
Change is an inevitable part of life and one that is important to growing, developing as a person, and ensuring we don't become stagnant. Embrace it as best as you can and know that it's all necessary in shaping who you are.
What is coming is better than what is gone.