I’ve never really been very good at accepting change, and the other day I began to wonder why…
I grew up in a very small town in Northern Michigan – a population of only about 3,000 people – and anyone who’s ever lived in one of these smaller communities can vouch that change is very rare and even when it does happen, it’s typically not without plenty of resistance from the status quo along the way. This can be a double-edged sword because from a nostalgic view, it can be comforting to go back home and see most of the things that you remember from growing up that have never really changed, but if you’re the kind of person who wants and needs change, it can certainly make living in a place like this a bit more challenging.
It’s something that I honestly never really noticed when I was younger – I’m sure it would’ve stood out if the opposite had been true and I’d experienced more than one place growing up in my childhood, but when it’s all that you really know, the consistency is just normal. I don’t think it was until I had my driver’s license and my friends and I began to commute to larger cities for shopping and concerts and whatnot that I began to realize that there was in fact more out there than my little hometown in the woods up north had ever offered…
…and truth be told, that wanting for something different is what finally drove me to pack my bags and leave town, moving some 1,500 miles away to Florida to a city that was the polar opposite of everything that I knew up north. The people were diverse, there was so much to do around me, and things were always changing, to the point that in turn it was welcoming to be surrounded by so much unfamiliarity and so many new things to do and experience.
And yet despite making such a big change in my life – quite possibly my biggest to date – smaller changes are still very difficult for me, ranging everything from trying a new dish on a restaurant menu to feeling anxiety about meeting new people. Given the option, I’d just as soon order the same reliable dish from my favorite Chinese restaurant, enjoyed with a few close friends or solo in front of my favorite video game and never change anything, but I know that isn’t very realistic and it’s also a way to miss out on a lot of other great things in life to boot.
So it makes me wonder how much of that deep down resistance to change stems from my early days of growing up in a town without much change at all…
Sure, I was eventually able to work up the courage to break out of the mold and venture south to new horizons, but it certainly didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took a solid 5 years after I graduated from high school before finally loading up my car and pulling out of my Mom’s driveway as my family waved goodbye with tears in their eyes. There were plenty of excuses leading up until then – let me work for a year to save up some money first, let me get my two-year degree at the local community college first because it’ll be cheaper that way, let me pay off my car first, etc…
Admittedly it was probably equally as much out of frustration and desperation that drove me to greener pastures – if there had been a better job lined up or a lady friend of sorts to keep me tied down, who knows … I might be writing this article still surrounded by mountains of snow instead! I’ve always been a very analytical person, so it takes raw data, not anecdotal evidence, to really persuade me in one direction over the other. Moving across the country was a huge change, but as such it took lots and lots and lots of smaller events and happenings to gradually convince myself that it was the right decision, and the right time to do it for that matter!
Which is kind of amusing to me in retrospect almost 15 years later because now I look back at that time where although I don’t regret how things ultimately ended up, I do wish that I’d have taken the plunge sooner. Reading travel blogs from people that are the age I was then now makes me envious of that time when I could’ve wandered relatively freely with no strings other than a few bills to guide my decisions … which may have felt like a lot at the time but in hindsight when pets and children and mortgages are added into the mix, the excuses really were pretty much just all in my head.
A few things that I’ve learned have made me less resistant to change over the years are actually pretty simple:
- Spend time with people who have preferences that are different from your own.
- Be willing to break out of your comfort zone every once in a while.
- And obviously, just having more opportunity for choices available in the first place.
It all just makes me curious how much a person’s surroundings really have for an impact on how they handle change…
Are people who grew up in places like Los Angeles or New York City infinitely more accepting of change simply because possibilities are zipping around them in larger cities almost constantly?
And how much of that way of life gets ingrained when you’re young like I’m hypothesizing for myself … a la I’m more open to change now than I was 20 years ago, but there are some things picked up early enough that follow you for life?
Or to even take it a step further – is a small community going to be less conducive to change simply because it is the sum of its people, or vice versa for a large city???