I drove the same car for ten years. It was a black Toyota Echo. The air conditioner didn’t work and the car was so loud my friends could literally hear me a mile away. All of the hub caps were missing and failing inspections was the norm. Yet in spite of all of its obvious flaws, the little car got me from Kentucky to Arizona to North Carolina, got me through school, through many a life change, all the while happily belting music from it’s dusty cassette player. The truth is, this little, worn-out, happy little car had become a part of me. Even though I dreamed of a shiny new replacement, it was so hard to let go. I came up with so many reasons to delay getting a new car: 1. Not having a car payment was awesome!; 2. It finally passed inspection and I wouldn’t have to pay for repairs for another year; 3. I didn’t want to deal with car salesmen; 4. It had lasted me this long; 5. I was use to it; 6. I wasn’t ready.
At some point, even if we delay it for ten years, change happens. It’s scary. It’s unpredictable, and it’s a part of life. Sometimes we’re ready. Sometimes we go into the change kicking and screaming. Sometimes it’s for the better. Sometimes it’s not. No matter the reason or the outcome, change is a guarantee.
Even though change is a part of life, sometimes it can be very hard to manage especially when we identify so completely with the status quo. Our identity becomes fused with what is or was and leaves little room for what could be. We become inflexible and unable to think outside the confines of our comfort zone. We allow self-doubt, excuses, pride, and unhelpful thoughts to talk us out of new possibilities. We become stuck.
This comfort zone gives us a false sense of security. Although we may carefully craft our world to avoid uncomfortable situations or emotions, the discomfort, the pain, the change will happen anyway. Life finds a way no matter how high the walls, no matter how strong the barrier.
If we all know that change is inevitable, then why do we run, hide, try to avoid it? My best guess is self-protection. We are trying to protect our sense of identity. It feels safe to think of ourselves in a certain way. After all, we all want to understand who we are, and what better way than to identify ourselves as a specific type of person, with a specific career, a specific car or house, likes and dislikes- and then stick to it. Branching out into new directions, and taking new paths seems counterintuitive to our sense of identity.
But there are so many facets of who we are, that it is very possible that as you explore the various aspects of yourself and your wants, you will discover that many different paths await you. Each path offers new ways of thinking, new habits, new dreams. You may discover that all along you thought of yourself in a certain way, but now realize that way is outdated. You realize that that way of thinking is keeping you stuck. The truth is you are free to be whoever you choose. Your sense of identity is fluid and ever-changing. It is not stagnant. It is not stuck. “Being true to who you are” is honoring the ever-changing person that you are and remaining flexible to the changes.
With an open mind, ask yourself “Are there other paths that are calling me? What skills and gifts do I want to share? What parts of myself do I want to make peace with? What things, people, situations is it time to let go of?” When the answers come, don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. The world is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?
That little car meant so much to me and even though I wasn’t completely ready to move on, it was time to let go. As hard as it was, it was time to stop making excuses and take the plunge. Time to let go of my identity as someone with a car that can be heard a mile away (smile). While this was a good change, it was bittersweet. Change always is.