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Choosing Change

Emily Dean


One of the most terrifying things for me is change. Even typing the word, I cringe a little inside. My tummy does a little flip before resettling into calm. No matter how I try to dress up the situation with pretty words or a positive spin, change is change. And I hate it.

Not that self-aware growing up (okay, I was self-conscious and insecure, but not able to really understand my feelings when it counted), I tiptoed through change with white knuckles and chewed fingernails, uncertain as to why everything inside of me wanted to retreat back to bed whenever something shifted.

I blindly foraged into post-high- school life expecting everything to work itself out. Two years later and I was overcome with an anxiety disorder, floundering in failed jobs, feeling like a flop as I continued to live at my parent’s house. As embarrassed as I was to admit that I had the dreaded “anxiety,” I was relieved to finally have found a name, a diagnosis, of what ate away at my brain. I wasn’t crazy, and there were things I could do to help me live a regular life. I yearned to be ordinary, just an average girl.

Now I could focus on the issue, research it, learn all about it, beat it into submission. While I have made leaps and bounds in understanding my anxiety, I would say I haven’t beaten anything. I didn’t find peace by punching my stress into a pulp, but rather by befriending it. And, while the panic attacks and hermit-like behavior has faded into the past, the situations that kept me crying in bed haven’t gone away.

Change never disappears. (There goes my stomach again.) I have fought that sentence for years. It’s still a terrifying thought to me. I’m a homebody and I love to create a cozy atmosphere with people I love. I flourish in routines and a self-driven schedule. A late bedtime or an un-normally early morning and my body reacts with tight muscles
and a blinding headache. When I am doing what I love, where I love to be, with the people who make me me, I want to hold onto everything and keep it from moving away, changing. My fiancé works with children and I am often involved in games where they’re asked to pick a superpower. Usually, this stops them in their tracks and they scrunch up their little noses in concentration as they try to think of the very best power. I immediately know what I would choose – to freeze time.

If I knew that I would never have to encounter something new, something different, something that would make me have to re-orient myself, find a new pattern, I would be content and safe. Permanently.

But, while there is something to be said for the familiar, there is an almost indescribable feeling that comes with trying something new. Perhaps a trip, a new job, or trying a new recipe. There is a subtle but captivating thrill that comes with change.

I love to reorganize and rearrange furniture. Something in me needs to see a subtle shift in the things around me once the current way seems a little too tired and worn. It never fails that once I have found the perfect new position for the bed or that little gold mirror, I suddenly itch to put it all back. I’ve had to actually leave my house to keep from re-rearranging my furniture back to its old spot.

No matter how much I recognize change as a good sign, one of growth and progress, my hands long to hold tightly to the old patterns, even if it’s as simple as a raggedy throw pillow. Anxiety rarely creeps up when you are content and safe. It’s when you’re on the ledge, taking that first step, bracing yourself for the fall, that your mind suddenly starts reeling, shrieking out Why are you doing this to me? Everything was going fine! Even a person who handles stress well will know that opportunity provides risk – trying something new is, in a way, gambling. Letting the walls of safety go down means you might just get hurt. You might also end up in a wonderful new place that has more possibility and hope than you ever thought there was. Change transforms. When I was drowning in anxiety, I had to change. Seeing a therapist, I had to change the way I thought, change the way I looked at struggles, change how I talked to myself when I was stressed. Without change, I would still be hiding in my room. Don’t shield yourself from a big, raw, fluctuating world that has doorways and windowsills and caverns of beauty waiting to be explored.

There are certain things in my life that I hope never change – the man by my side, having a love for life, seeking out the beauty in the everyday regular. But, I hope that I change as I fall more in love, that as new passions come into my life I can accept them with open arms, and that I’d be able to see beauty in all its shifting, varying shapes.

Article by Reeve Currie | Photography by LaRue