No, the title of this post does not refer to the Grace Paley collection of short stories, I’m afraid; the enormous changes I mention are not fictional at all, but very real, and they are changes that will massively affect my life, and this blog, too, as a consequence. They are very exciting changes, rest assured, and ones I have been planning and hoping for, for a very long time. They are the culmination of a years’ worth of fervent dreaming, and I could almost cry with the happiness of having my dreams come true at long last.
A few years ago, however, this wouldn’t be the case. I used to be terrified of change. I resisted it with all my might. I liked things to stay the same; to know exactly what I was doing and where I was going and what I had to look forward to. I enjoyed the routine of my school days; of timetables and bells and order and neatness. Every day was planned in advance; there was nothing to be afraid of, nothing to worry about, nothing to threaten or disturb the quiet normality of my life. I grew up in what I now consider to be a depressingly ordinary London suburb, but at the time, it represented safety, familiarity, and reliability to me. I lived in the same house from the age of two to eighteen; one of those ubiquitous early 1930’s semis that so define British suburbia, with a neatly fenced in front and back garden, light filled rooms with art deco tiled fireplaces and beige carpet, and a bedroom all of my own that looked out onto the busy artery of my particular suburb below, always thronged with people and cars and buses and life.
I loved that house. I loved every corner of it. It was more than just a house to me; it was a part of the very fibre of my identity. It was where my memories lived, where the halcyon days of my carefree childhood had been spent, where my family and I had been so happy. Our lives seemed, to me, to have seeped into the very walls of that house, becoming just as much a part of it as the bricks it was built from. That it could even exist without us to live within it seemed absurd. Leaving it was an impossible cruelty I could never bear to contemplate; I think part of me believed I would always live there, in that sunny house where every room was filled with memory. I cried for a week when it was sold to another family just after I graduated at 21, and I still can’t drive past it without a lump in my throat and tears pricking my eyes. Saying goodbye to that house, was, for me, a metaphorical goodbye to my childhood, to my adolescence, and to everything I had been, and dreamed of being, within my first 21 years. It wasn’t the first big change of my life, and nor was it the first loss, but that house was my anchor, and without it, I felt cast adrift.
However, life moved on and within the space of a month I left university, said goodbye to the only home I had ever known, moved in to a house with four strangers, and started my first job. Change came for me like several slaps in the face. It was an intensely difficult period, but also a wonderfully liberating one. Everything I had ever feared happened to me all at once, and I realised that not only could I cope, but I could enjoy it, too. With my anchor gone, I had set sail on a vast ocean of opportunity, and instead of curling up in a ball and praying for dry land, I was soaring on the wind. The job turned out not to be scary at all, but a fantastic opportunity for me to develop my self confidence, learn new skills, and make dear friends who remain among the most important people in my life. Moving in with strangers turned out to be the best decision I ever made; it taught me patience, tolerance, true independence, and gave me a whole new social life. Most of the girls I lived with are now my best friends, and I wouldn’t have missed getting to meet them and live with them for the world, even if it was a nightmare of hormones and unwashed dishes at times! This period of change and flux and severing of ties that bound me to every sense of security that I held dear finally taught me that change is not something to be feared. Yes, change means that you leave people and places behind, but you need to leave things behind you in order to move forward, and embrace new challenges and new places and new people. In doing so, you add more layers of richness to your life; more friendships, more experiences, more wisdom, more memories, and your heart grows bigger to accomodate them all. Change is a good thing.
Since those heady days my life has changed in even more ways; I have a different job, I have moved twice, I have taken up new hobbies, made new friends, said goodbye to other friends, grown older and hopefully wiser, and generally begun to embrace the ebb and flow of opportunity and adaptation that comes with adulthood. Life cannot, and should not, stay the same forever. I know now that I wouldn’t want it to. That, I suppose, is growing up.
So, what of the enormous changes I refer to? Well, once again I am changing my job, and living arrangements, all in one go. But this time, it’s on a much bigger scale. I’m moving to New York. An ocean away from everyone and everything I hold dear. It’s terrifying, but also the most exciting, thrilling, liberating, wonderful thing that I have yet done. On September 5th, I’ll be flying out to begin a new life in a new city, and I hope you will all come along with me on this new adventure! Oh, and if you’re reading, and live in New York, and want to be my friend when I arrive…please do send me an email!!!