Change isn’t easy. It might be exciting, it might be painful, it might be unnerving, but it is never easy. There’s no way to feel comfortable within change. You never know what’s going to happen and if you can’t be sure of the outcome, you don’t feel in control. Some people love this feeling and others not so much, but the common factor among all of it is that change usually yields some kind of results. And in our lives, where a constant movement forward is important, change is the key.
It took me five years to graduate from college. I had a fantastic college experience for the first half. I was a Theater major, I went to parties, I studied when it occurred to me, I had lots of friends – it was an amazing experience. One that I would wish for anyone. I learned so much about who I was away from my parents. What I thought was fun and what wasn’t, who I could trust and why. We rehearsed in the black box theater until 3am and waited on the corner for the pizza guy to deliver. You get hungry when you work (or play?) so hard! I performed in an improv group every Friday and Saturday and ate up every single experience – except school. My classes kind of fell to the backburner and I found myself dropping French 101 or ditching Science 103. In the moment, I knew it was the right choice to drop my classes since I wasn’t going anyway, but I also knew that I’d have to face my parents and deal with the fact that I was wasting time and money. That said, I was so engrossed in my own life experience that I just couldn’t see anything else.
Then things began to fall apart. Loving all of my experiences as an actor and stage manager, I also knew that the school I was attending wasn’t for me. The people I was surrounding myself with were people I loved dearly, but likely weren’t going to help me move in any direction. I was completely lost and searching for what was right. The biggest issue was that no one could answer the question of what was right – including me. My parents loved me, but didn’t know the new girl I was. My friends planned to either live in my college town forever or move to L.A. and try to work in film, neither of which I wanted. No one really knew me anymore and I was struggling. Even after transferring schools, moving cities, and hopping from one major to the next, I was spinning. I was depressed, had very few friends and couldn’t find my footing. I started therapy with a wonderful woman who helped me walk through my depression some, so things began to look up a bit. I worked diligently to see my path, but it just wasn’t forming in front of me. I was going to school by day and serving tables and bartending at Red Lobster by night. That was my entire life – when I’d finally had enough.
Deciding that I was going to drop out of school was about the scariest decision that I’d had to make thus far. If you know me well, you know that once I make a decision about myself, I rarely go back. So this was now my plan, no discussion. I didn’t know what I was doing, but instead of continuing to spin, I was going to drop out of school and work for awhile – get my head together. Did I think I’d never return? I left myself the option to go back, but I didn’t share that with anyone else. It was time to make a change. I remember thinking that if I could tell my grandma that I was dropping out, I could tell anyone – so I called her first. She wasn’t pleased, but she dealt with it (what could she say?) and it was over. I proceeded to tell my parents and brother next, and there was no going back.
And so it was. I served tables, bartended, went home and slept. That was my life for about 4 weeks. I worked hard, I made tips, I was able to support myself and that was that. I relaxed and let my mind wander. I had always loved psychology and I’d always loved people. This was an area of life that I looked at as a hobby, but I’d always been afraid to really dive in. What if I hated it? But once I’d made the huge change and dropped out, I wasn’t so scared anymore. No one expected me to do anything specific educationally any longer, so I could do what I felt drawn to and this was it.
Five weeks into my hiatus from school I looked into changing my major. For the next year and a half I went to school through the summer, took extra classes, got extra credits wherever I could and loved it. I volunteered, helped to run graduate student research projects – anything that would earn me an extra credit or three. I knew where I was going and I was ready to be done. I wasn’t spinning anymore and I finally graduated.
What’s important to remember is that even if you are scared, even if people expect things of you, even if you expect certain things from yourself – nothing is going to change if you don’t change it. It’s never going to be perfect, but it is going to be different. And once you make that change, it’s up to you to continue to create your own destiny. You are the one in charge, no one else. You are the only one who can do anything about your life and your path. Take the bull by the horns and go out there and make your life a great one. Make the changes that you need to make to drive you into that next bit of wonderful. All it takes is the courage to discover the unknown. It’s not easy, but it could be amazing.