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Photo by Javier Allegue Barros via Unsplash A soft sunset behind the silhouette of a road sign with four directional signs pointing in different directions.

Wanting to change isn’t enough to enact change

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat and written anything for myself. How many months or years have I now spent vaguely dissociated and depressed? It feels like I’ve been stuck here since I finished my college course in June 2019. I took a new path for 2020 with a coffee shop job, and it tore me apart because it wasn’t a good fit.

Now it’s the last week of August in the year 2022.

The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.

Nathaniel Branden

When I last spoke with my doctor, I said that my medication “takes the edge off, but I’m not quite there still”–it takes the edge off, really, but I’m still somewhere near a dangerous edge. It’s like I’ve plunked a seat down to chill out by a deep cavern of depression. It’s not a good place to be. Sitting here in a desolate land means I’m not doing anything. What can I do, after all, if there is a ravine with no bridges and no life; nothing flows down there.

I found a notebook this evening when I sought a place to write down my work to-do list.

I wanted to make a to-do list for work to set reasonable expectations. It’s already Wednesday and I haven’t logged any hours with work. There are pros and cons to being able to set your schedule completely and work a remote, asynchronous job. Right now, I’m stuck with the cons. I can’t go and do a month’s worth of work in a week. It’s impossible, and so I need to see where I am in the cycle of work (it’s truly never-ending in quality assurance, and that’s okay!) and make reasonable goals this time. That means 12 items in a list, and that’s it for this week.

But back to the notebook. It’s one of my favourites, now discontinued, from Staples. When looking for a blank page, I saw section after section filled with plans to improve my life. I set goals to exercise more frequently. Line after line includes affirmations and reminders of the “Why?” for a goal. In this notebook, this record of my “failed attempts” goes back to the beginning of 2019.

I’ve been wanting to improve my life for years without having anything to show for it. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I’m doing worse now because I keep measuring by the same metrics:

  • Have I done enough work for my contracts?
  • Have I completed art projects?
  • Have I written anything?

I love how supportive my team is at work. I’m truly blessed to have them working alongside me, understanding my mental illness and its struggles, and (most of all) accommodating me when I am unable to perform. But objectively, I have not done enough by my own personal goals and standards (and, frankly, paycheques).

I haven’t made art in three years.

I haven’t written more than a few lines or notes in my phone for a story.

What have I been doing all these years other than wanting to change and not enacting any change?

The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.

Che Guevara

Perhaps I’m in a phase where the revolution is building up. Now I don’t have a lot of history knowledge, but I think most revolutions have a period of time where tensions rise and the desire to change builds amongst the people. The revolution is the turning point where all the sentiments and action join together to change politics and society.

When can I revolutionize myself? My actions, my routines, my self-image, my mood, my health–when can I confidently say, “Yes, I’ve bettered myself! Yes, I’ve achieved my goals! Yes, I let go of things that didn’t serve me!” When does my personal revolution get a timestamp on it?

I want it to be soon. But wanting it isn’t enough, it seems, because three years of wanting hasn’t resulted in anything meaningful or traceable.

Even older than these years of struggles is my motto:

You don’t have to feel like doing something in order to do it. Your ability to complete tasks does not rely on your emotions in that moment.

“How to Do Anything When You Don’t Feel Like It” – Coryl Addy

It’s slipped from the forefront of my mind, but now it’s time to bring it back. Onto a sticky note it goes. Maybe I’ll create a phone wallpaper to remind me.

Of course my moods affect what I can do, and it’s important for me to remember that I need to accommodate for when my mental health is garbage. But the difference is that, since having my medication adjusted a bit in May, my mood is… Okay. I feel like now I’ve packed up the chair where I would watch the ravine of despair. I’m just standing here, fiddling with my things, checking to make sure I have everything… Waiting for the timing to be right or the weather to be good to leave my familiar surroundings.

That’s one of the things about changing your health and improving your life. The comfort zone is something different. It’s coping mechanisms, unhealthy vices, familiar chaos, and habits that have kept me safe.

I’m glad to say I am safe now. Is this how plants feel when they get repotted? Suddenly there’s room to grow and I’m unsure if that room will let me in. But when I’ve changed my life, on my terms, that room is only for me–and I need to take up the space I’ve carved out for myself.

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