“Clothes,” I say.
“Plans,” he rattles back.
“You hair color,” he laughs.
We keep going back and forth. Ricocheting against one another. Only the roaring of the washer standing between our breaths of silence.
This was our favorite game. Categories. The game where you exhaust one another with all the possible types of cereal and sports teams you can think of before someone gives up and someone wins out. This was our own version of Categories. The category on the table: things that change.
“College majors,” I said.
“Shoes fall under clothes. I win.”
“Not true,” he denies. “Changing your shoes is completely different from changing your clothes… Keep going.”
“Fine. Profile pictures.”
“Good one,” he says. “Twitter bios.”
“Totally gave you that one.
We could go on for days like this, I kept thinking to myself. We could go on bantering and joking and having one another in this playful little way and nothing would need to be examined for a second or third time.
“Seasons,” I tell him.
“Kind of the like the weather but I will still give it to you,” he nudges me playfully. “Your coffee order. Definitely your coffee order. For instance, will you be a skim latte today or will you go for pumpkin?”
“Us,” I cut him off. “This.”
He doesn’t say anything. I let the silence fall on top of us like a blanket. All I can hear is the washer still going: whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
“You ruined the game,” he said. “This was a dumb category anyway.”
“You picked it,” I answered him silently.
“I wouldn’t pick this,” he said back. His eyes were on the barren walls. The space that didn’t hold my things inside of it anymore. “I didn’t pick this.”
Change isn’t just in the aftermath of falling in love or falling apart.
I’m learning this. I’m so used to pairing change with love stories that haven’t worked out in the creases the way I’ve wanted them to that I forget how change is so much more than that. It’s a location. It’s a best friend. It’s a person who raised you. It’s a place where you and I used to meet up and suddenly, suddenly, there isn’t room for one another anymore. Change is always wearing different costumes. It’s always wearing different makeup and capes and teeth. Change is just this thing that never fails to make me feel like I am standing in the Halloween aisles of Target, trying to figure out how it will dress up and show up at my door the next time.
Months ago, I would have lied to you. About this whole change thing. I would have acted way more gracefully and told you: change is a good thing. It’s necessary. We need it.
I still believe all those things but I think I’m giving up the graceful act— I know I am clumsy when it comes to change. I still fight this thing inside of me that doesn’t want to move. I still cling. And there was this one time when I spent a whole day in the library— a whole stretch of day— with every book I could find on butterflies flapped open and lying on the floor. I felt like a crazy person. A literal crazy person. Still, I spent that day tracing every step in the transformation process. Caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly. Caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly. Looking for any clue that something as dumb as a caterpillar could know the potential it had to actually fly. I stayed in that spot on the floor just until my soul could be fed with enough reassurance: even something as pretty as a butterfly clings to its old life as long as it can. Because it has no idea what will happen next. And all it can see is the dark of the next step. So no, you’re not wrong to cling. It’s okay to cling.
Change is not a trick-or-treater.
Isn’t that the scary part? Change knows exactly what it wants when it comes to your door. It’s you. Your whole body. Your whole being. The parts of yourself you said you didn’t want to release so soon. That’s change— always looking different and always asking for the same thing when it reaches you: the permission to come ripping into your life to shove you around like furniture. For the better. For the worse. For the chance to leave you different than yesterday.
It’s okay. Really, it’s okay. Don’t be afraid if you are changing. If you are not in love any longer. If you are stretched too thin. Don’t be afraid.
This whole thing— this entire journey— is about change. It’s about an equation you’re not supposed to be able to solve. It’s about dreams that feel too big for your body because you need those sorts of things. We all need things that are bigger than our bodies to keep us hopeful and to keep us going.
This whole thing is about learning to tell yourself ‘yes.’ And ‘no.’ And ‘stay.’ And ‘don’t stay.’ And allowing yourself to let go of the lie the world tries to feed you, the lie that tells you you cannot become someone different if you want to be. You can. I promise that. You can. It starts with change and a lot of little action verbs: breaking. changing. morphing. molding. doing. letting go. laughing. enduring. fighting. leaving.
Don’t be afraid. This is all a part of the process.
Today is the first day that I actually believed it.
The first day I actually believed fall might be a real thing in Atlanta. That people weren’t just lying to me when they told me that one day, one day soon, the leaves would shimmy and turn and crumble to the ground. The temperature would dip low and give the southern humidity a one-way ticket to go somewhere else for a little while.
It’s like I want to tell everyone around me who has an ear to hear it: This isn’t October the way I am used to. I am a girl who grew up watching the summer die. I could watch it in the trees. I could see it in the air. Summer dying, where I come from up north, is the most remarkable treasure you never had to pay for. It’s given unto you. And I hope I never take it for granted again.
There’s just something about those leaves though. Watching them change. Watching them cling to the green until the brown and yellow and red take over up until the point when they can’t hold on any longer and they fall to the ground.
It gives me hope. Like hope that I could become as good as change as those leaves. That I could stop clinging long enough to become a different shade or color of myself. That I could stop whispering the lie in my own ear: things don’t have to change, they can stay the same.
Things don’t stay the same. They just don’t. People move. They leave. They don’t become who you expect them to be. You grow out of one another. Friends leave. We all shut doors. We open new ones. We shut more. And goodbye sometimes brings heartbreak and it sometimes hauls miracles into your life. You have to let it fall off your lips sometimes just to know.
You will still watch the leaves fall off the trees whether you witness it with open hands or arm crossed over you in resistance. If you are anything like me then you need to be the one to beg yourself not to miss out on one of the most back-breaking beautiful things of this lifetime: you get to change. You. You. You are not forgotten in all of this. You get to become something new too.
And maybe that’d seem nicer if you could see the change before it pushed you into newness. But then again, it must not work that way for a reason. There’s got to be a reason why I have to be someone new but I can’t know everything about that new girl yet.
Maybe it’s the process. The unknown of the process that gets you good. Turns you gold and all that stuff. Maybe it’s the process– not the destination on a map but the dotted lines that get you there.
Maybe we should go and see.
Maybe, let’s just go and see.
:: photo cred ::