There’s a common misconception that living in NYC means you’re easily adaptable to change. It’s a hustling, bustling city where transition is welcomed and New Yorkers are supposed to meet change head on.
However, I don’t agree.
After five years of living here and “making it” on my own, I think it’s the exact opposite: New Yorkers are terrified of change. We live in a constant state of transition—new jobs, new relationships, new apartments—that when we find something constant, we cling to it for dear life.
The last year of my life has been nothing but transition. I graduated college. Got a new job. Moved to a new neighborhood. I’m completely out from under the parental umbrella…and admittedly, sometimes it gets wet. For months, I’ve felt like an aimless wanderer in my own existence – figuring things out, fumbling.
I’ve never been “good” at change. I’ve never been good at letting go.
I’m notorious for clinging to things that I no longer need, if only out of a misplaced sense of reliance. Once, I kept a lone earring on my nightstand for over a year, hoping I’d somehow stumble upon it’s missing twin. I never did.
In my personal life, I often find myself hoping to stumble across that missing earring…or more accurately, hoping that certain people and circumstances will change on their own. I have a habit of staying in less-than-ideal relationships for too long, hoping for organic, spontaneous change. I’m someone who has an expired carton of milk stowed away in their fridge, too timid to pour its contents down the drain. As if, despite living alone, someone else will come along and do it for me.
Exactly one year ago today, I broke up with my boyfriend of two years. However, I had been emotionally done with that relationship long before it actually ended. I knew he wasn’t what I wanted or needed. I knew we were just prolonging the inevitable. I wanted him to be more involved in my life, I wanted him to stop compartmentalizing me and make me more of a priority. I was craving affection that he couldn’t give, attention that he didn’t have time for. I knew he couldn’t give me what I wanted.
I knew all this and yet, for some reason, I stuck around. I kept having the same conversation over and over again in hopes that maybe something would change. It was as if I’d expected him to wake up one morning with a completely different personality and outlook on life. Deep down, I knew he’d never change and, frankly, it was unfair of me to expect him to.
It’s a sad epiphany when confronted with the plain and simple fact that if you have to try to change someone to be happy with them, it’s not meant to be. However, just because I knew it was coming didn’t mean there wasn’t tremendous pain. I always feel a tremendous amount of pain when I let go of something important- even if it’s long expired.
I’ve spent the last year of my life learning how to heal. Now, I’m learning how to let go. I’ve promised myself that I will stop clinging so tightly to the things that hurt and move on from the opportunities that don’t benefit me any longer.
After a night of tears and sobbing in the back of a cab so hard that the cab driver took me through the only fast food drive-thru in Brooklyn to buy me a milkshake (a story for another day), I realized that not only is change inevitable but more often than not, change is good. Change is what cultivates new experiences. Change is the undervalued, under-appreciated sign of maturity.
Somehow, I realized, we have to teach ourselves this. Change helps us grow and evolve as people. But most importantly, when in poor relationships (friendships or otherwise), having the courage to change is having respect for yourself. It took me a while to realize that, but now that I have, I’m never losing sight of myself again.
Not letting go—which is simply a choice I made, and one I’ve made repeatedly—is the only thing that kept me from being as happy as I could be. I’m seeing the world with brand new eyes, realizing now that letting go is worth the pain that comes with doing it.
Having the power to let go is proof that I won’t crumble under the pressure the world puts on me. I will not unravel. I will not break.
There’s hope in that, in knowing that change won’t kill me. And maybe that’s a hope worth clinging to.