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I’d love to tell you that I’m an expert in coping with change; that I’m a finger-on-the-pulse kind of a girl who’s up to the minute with all the latest technologies, ideas and world issues. I’d love to be able to tell you that I challenge the status quo, that I’m a change-maker, a world changer; but I’m not. The truth is, no matter how much I want to be that kind of a person, at the age of 31, change still scares me.
They say that you experience the most life changes during your teen years; physical, emotional, sexual and social changes can make you feel like you’ve been caught in a hurricane, losing control over the various aspects of your life. Most of us move to ‘big school’ at least once, where we trade the comfort zone of familiar classrooms for bigger, longer corridors; free time and play time for more structured timetables and our position as top dog for that of the unknown new kid.
I moved to ‘big school’ at the age of 9 and it was possibly the single most life-transforming event of my childhood. Where I lived, at the age of 9 you left the comfort of lower school with a grand total of thirty-odd pupils for middle school, three miles and a bus ride away and home to nearly ten times as many kids, all bigger, bolder and much, much cooler than me. At my lower school, our closest neighbours were a herd of cows, our afternoons were spent making up plays to perform to the younger class and swimming in the school swimming pool. Middle school was in the middle of one of the most deprived and ethnically diverse housing estates on the edge of town and it scared me. It scared me so much that I spent my final summer term of lower school worrying to such an extent that I stopped eating properly. My need to take control of something, anything, led me to take control over my diet with particularly negative effects. It took doctors, parents, teachers, prayers and a good holiday to get me through it.
But I did get through it and my fears proved to be ill-founded. Less than a term into Middle School and I found myself settled into a new lifestyle. One where I could enjoy meeting people and making friends from a whole range of backgrounds, where I could see the world beyond my little village and where I could even enjoy lessons aside from ‘making up a play.’
Now you’d think that having survived that, I’d be more confident to face change throughout life, but no. At 31, I still get scared and I say that after a year of enormous change in my own life. In the last 12 months I’ve got married, moved house twice, left my job after 8 years and most recently, given birth to my first baby. Every step of that journey has been scary; sharing life with someone means compromise, acceptance and the realisation that you’re not as perfect as you’d like to think; moving house means stress and boxes and yet more stress; giving up work means the loss of financial independence and a change of personal identity and having a baby means sleepless nights, endless washing and an almost overwhelming sense of responsibility.
I’d love to be able to tell you that I’ve handled it all brilliantly but I haven’t. I haven’t fallen apart at the seams and I haven’t lost control of my eating habits this time, but there have been tears; lots of tears and some sleepless nights that can’t be blamed on baby Isaac. I have coped better this time. How? By recognising the need to get help, to share when I’m struggling and by accepting that sometimes you need to give up the need to be in total control of the situation. And, as I finish writing this to go and give baby Isaac his bath, there’s more than a little recognition that sometimes, change can be good.