No Stranger to Change
Growth Myndset is happy to present this featured post in our Guest Writer's Series. Guest writers are diverse in their background and issues of focus, and the content below is neither edited nor altered by Growth Myndset in any way without the consent of the author. The views expressed elsewhere on our website do not represent the views of our guest writers.
I’ve had the theme song of Netflix’s Big Mouth stuck in my head this past summer: “I’m going through chaaanges / I’m going through chaaanges / in my life.” Like Charles Bradley croons in this heartfelt tune, I’ve been going through my fair share of life changes.
One of the most significant being that I recently quit my job. My first-ever fulltime, benefit-filled, downtown Toronto, 9-5 job.
Whoa. Wait, what?! Why would I quit?? What about the benefits??? Was I SURE I wanted to quit? WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE NOW?!?!?!
All those doubts and ridiculous questions peppered my mind, of course, but I knew before it all materialized that I’d made the right decision. I couldn’t doubt myself when I knew that my decision would be met with enough doubt from others.
It was interesting to hear people’s reactions when I told them I was quitting. They ranged from an enthusiastic “Congratulations!!” to a shocked “…Oh?”
No matter the reaction, I somehow felt the need to justify myself and back-up this difficult decision I’d made. I’d quickly add that I was leaving for health and personal reasons, which usually lead to another “…Oh?”, awkward silence or smattering of follow-up questions. I didn’t have to say why I was leaving, but I was willingly offering up this additional, rather personal, bit of information.
I didn’t need to elaborate about why crippling chronic pain in my right wrist was making it impossible for me to carry out my desk job, about how my condition had stumped countless specialists and health care practitioners, about why I was constantly leaving for medical appointments, and so on.
As I continue to recuperate and manage the chronic pain, I’ve been able to reflect on the past tumultuous months. Sharing the news was hard for a (recovering) perfectionist like me, and the follow-up conversations haven’t been any easier.
I started noticing an uncomfortable trend. When you divulge something so painfully vulnerable about yourself – finally straying off the beaten path of small talk and gossip – to find that it never comes up again, it feels like your words are dust.
Yet this tidbit of information suddenly changes how you’re perceived – no longer a whole, healthy person but fragments and pieces of someone who needs to be patched back together.
I understand that it can be all at once challenging/confusing/burdensome to be on the receiving end of a startling revelation, but remember that this person had chosen to confide in you. And they will likely be there for you when something equally turbulent happens in your life.
This experience wasn’t unique to me divulging that I quit my job for health reasons. It could be any difficult conversation, whether about mental illness, sexuality, divorce, death or other deeply personal subjects. It could be a long-awaited apology, embarrassing question or shameful regret. These things aren’t pleasant to talk about, so we do it as little as possible.
As little as possible and as thankless as possible, it seems. Being on either side is emotionally draining – it takes enormous courage to disclose and it takes just as much patience to listen. Coming from someone who has been through a slew of changes – and someone who wants to support others through their own life changes – I’m mindful of how clumsy it can all feel.
I wished that I could erase the awkward silences – hey, it’s okay to admit you don’t know what to say. I wished that instead of judgements, I could receive questions. Is there anything I can do to support you? How have you been feeling? Do you want to talk about this more? Most of all, I wished this earthquake of a conversation I’d started would carry out. I’d love if we touched base again and you asked how I’m really doing, but please respect the time and space it takes to heal.
My wrist is starting to ache a bit from typing on the computer, but I remind myself that at least I can take a break. I can remind myself that it was brave to take this step towards protecting my health. And I’m so thankful to those that listened and supported me, as we all stumble along the changes in our own lives.