When I was younger, I always saw the words ‘you’ve changed’ as a negative. They were the marker of someone who had abandoned who they used to be, like Cady in Mean Girls when she loses herself to the lure of becoming a Plastic.
For years I feared the word ‘change’. I thought that being authentically myself meant doing the same thing I always had done. I didn’t want to be seen as a girl who turned her back on herself. I didn’t want people to narrow their eyes at me and wonder what had happened to the girl they used to know.
So I did what I could to be the person that they wanted me to be. I people pleased like no other and I exhausted myself.
When I left for Australia, there were a few times when I was hit with the old ‘you’ve changed’ line. It was almost as if moving was something I had to be guilty for. At first it hurt, but then I stepped back. I realised that in the sea of people in my life, only one or two people were saying I’d changed as a negative. Everyone else was supportive and proud of who I was becoming.
That was all I needed to see in order to understand that I needed to reevaluate my relationship some people and reassess their influence in my life.
The thing is, people telling me I’ve changed isn’t inaccurate – I have changed.
But the change in me is not negative.
I don’t put up with the bullshit that I used to. I have a better sense of myself than before. I say ‘no’ now if I don’t want to do something. I am a little more selfish, a little less ‘drop everything for someone who wouldn’t do the same for me’.
I found that the only people who told me I’d changed as if it was a negative thing were people who could no longer manipulate into being a version of myself that they wanted. The people that benefited from me not embracing change were the only people to complain when I accepted it into my life.
And do you know something? I think it’s okay that I let those people go.
Change is a vital part of life. We need to evolve and grow in order to become better people. We need to adapt to new normals, to struggle and to overcome. We need to learn.
I wish I could go back to the Jess that stepped off the plane in Australia and tell her that being told ‘you’ve changed’ isn’t a bad thing. I wish she knew that the people who deserved to be in her life were cheering the change on. I wish I could let her know a whole new world of opportunity would open up to her if she listened to who she wanted to be and not to those who wanted her to stay the same.
But at the same time, I am grateful for the roller coaster journey I took to getting to my moment of change. I think I had to listen to others for so long before I truly learnt the importance of listening to myself. I think I needed to not fear change in order to change.
It may have taken me a while, but I’ve got there. I can admit I have changed – I am proud of myself for it.