September. Whether you just started university, moved to a new city, moved into your own place (which is currently being shared with some mice that are less than welcomed guests) or have to change your go-to Starbucks drink from a $3.40 iced coffee to a $7 pumpkin spice latte, September is a time of drastic transition for many people. As someone who deals rather poorly with change (might be a slight understatement, as when I first moved into my university dorm last year, I called my mom/sister/aunt bawling a total of 20 times in 3 days), I have honed some pretty foolproof ways to come to terms with, and even enjoy, change.
If you’re anything like me, you are most comfortable existing in a set routine, and any disruption to your daily activities wreaks havoc on your well-being. For me, growing up in Toronto with the same friends, living in the same house since I was 9 months old, and being with my family every day, the transition into university was unbelievably hard. I had made the decision to leave Toronto and attend a university where I knew no one, in a city I had only read about in my Canadian History textbook. Couple this with the feeling that everyone around me was adjusting so well, I was one unhappy person. I wish at that time someone would have told me that EVERYONE is dealing with their own struggle to adapt to change (even if they’re more low-key about expressing their emotions. I can’t help it that I’m a crier).
For me, the most helpful piece of advice I received on dealing with change was to get yourself into a routine. Of course, for me, that meant putting aside a day in the week to head downtown and scout out a new coffee store (ok, I’ve been told I’m the only person in the world who calls it a coffee store… but whatever – my blog, my vocab) where I would bring my computer and work on all my assignments for the week. Not only did this allow me to explore new parts of the city and become comfortable moving around Ottawa, it also gave me a sense of stability in my new home. Even if I had spent my week adjusting horribly (i.e. trying to do laundry alone for the first time and not realizing that I was sitting in the gross laundry room for 2 hours thinking the dryer was on when it really wasn’t), I would always look forward to my productive, caffeine filled Tuesdays.
It is also so easy to retreat to solitude when you’re in a new environment. But, I can assure you that sitting alone in your room watching reruns of Project Runway is not going to help you acclimate (trust me, I tried this). I must admit that I lack self-motivation and, therefore, found the only way for me to leave my room was through pre-planned activities. I signed up for workout classes and joined a sorority, making me busy from 6am to 11pm almost every day. Getting out of my room and into the real world allowed me to meet new friends and build up a community within this new and strange place. As much as we wish it to be true, people won’t go out of their way to become friends with you. You must put yourself out there and interact with a whole slew of people to find your person (scary I know…).
I know that comfort and happiness won’t come easily and you might feel as if you could never be happy where you are. To that I say, you aren’t trying hard enough. Harsh? Yes. True? Yes. If you spend all your time being upset with where you are, you won’t realize that life is passing by. It is important to learn to love where you are right now and create a space for yourself where you are happy and comfortable.
While binge watching the new Humans of New York: The Series, one particularly wise homeless interviewee perfectly articulated my feelings: “Insanity is getting a gift and saying ‘it’s not worth anything’ so you throw it away. And when you find out it’s worth something, you spend the rest of your life trying to get it back. And you found out that [the] gift that was given to you was life. Once you’ve given your life away it’s not easy trying to get it back” (1:32). Granted, it sounded slightly wiser coming from a man who looked as if he had firsthand experience with a life wasted, but you get the point – approach new life experiences with excitement. Be happy with where you are – physically, emotionally and spiritually – because time is too fleeting to spend all your time being upset.
I hope you can now go forward with a new sense of preparedness for the changes ahead. Remember, change is terrifying, but soon everything will fall into place and we can all go back to living our lovely monotonous lives (or maybe it’s just me that enjoys monotony).