How Fearfully Being Pushed Into A Life Of Change Made Me More Open

by Tashneem Salvador

I’ve become quite accustomed to sharing my life through pictures over the past few years, and although they say a picture is worth a thousand words, in the world we live in today, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Social media creates a space for us to upload our best selves and delete the unpleasant or undesirable. We can post our best selfies while fighting our toughest battles; we can appear to have the perfect relationships while there’s a ton of drama going on behind the scenes.

This can distract from all types of inspiration we lack within ourselves, and display the materialistic things we acquire while our pockets are empty and bank accounts dry.

Pictures are no longer a sign of reality. They provide a window into the world we want people to see and the way we want to be perceived.

Words have always been a vessel of truth for me. I’ve always been very careful about the way I use them because they can either be pretty little butterflies we paint in people’s memories, or they can be daggers that pierce painfully through every inch of fiber, until they leave permanent scars.

I’ve never taken words for granted. I have said all I needed to say to who I’ve needed to say it to. If there was ever a lack of words, it was for good reason.

I’ve decided to express my thoughts for a culmination of reasons: I want my words to tell my story; I want something I can reflect on, not from a visual perspective, but from an emotional one.

I’m at a place in my life where I’m praying for clarity, seeking wisdom and figuring out who I am, what I want from life and how I’m going to get it.

I don’t have it all figured out, and a part of me wishes I did, but that’s just the thing about life: We aren’t supposed to have it all figured out. Where would be the excitement in that?

Growing up, I was somehow conditioned to believe I needed to know all the answers. I can’t place the blame on my family because for years, my family was in various stages of figuring it out, sometimes one at a time, sometimes everyone at once.

The notion that my path needed to be clear at all times was probably my defense against that phase.

I would plot my life plan as strictly as I could. I knew I wanted to attend the University of Cape Town (UCT) in the seventh grade. I knew I would study media; I knew I would get scholarships and graduate. I knew this because I worked my ass off to achieve it.

But then graduation happened, and I was 20 years old, still living with my parents.

I was in and out of flirtationships because clearly it’s not a relationship if all you ever do is meet up at the club on the weekend and have McDonald's in the parking lot after.

I wasn't ready to be an adult, even though my age said I was. So I copped out and decided to apply for my honors degree. People assume it was because I’m a scholar, but in reality, the job market was slim and I had no other option for my life but to continue on the strict plan.

Change scared me.

I was anxious, nervous and totally incapable of accepting that three years of my academic life were over. The inner control freak in me needed to know what was next: Masters? Doctorate?

I couldn't hide behind academia my entire life, even though I thought it was a far safer life than being out in the big world. I spent my honors year grappling with the notion that life is a natural and spontaneous thing.

I mean, sh*t happens, but I tried my very best to avoid it. It was tough accepting we ought to just let things happen and let things play out the way they're supposed to. In the end, it will all be as it should be, and it could be worse than we expected -- but it could also be better.

I challenged myself tremendously to being open to change.

I started small, with dating -- like, actually dating, as in let’s go to a nice restaurant, take walks on the beach and let me write you love letters and spend hours on the phone kind of dating.

I started exploring my options about leaving South Africa -- not just the "let’s go on a vacation to an Asian country and party with locals while stuffing our faces with foreign food," but leaving for a good while.

When the opportunity presented itself for me to do this, I was left flabbergasted and the timing couldn't be more perfect. I had just graduated for the second time, and here I was getting ready to leave for a year, or so I thought.

I ended up turning my year into two, and somehow, in the midst of going through all these changes, I fell in love. I will go as far as to say I was in love for the first time.

It wasn't the fickle type of thing, either. I was completely in over my head, and I had never experienced anything like it. I was going to give my all, and love harder than I knew how to at the time because I was giving myself the chance to just live a little more. I was going to be impulsive for the sake of it.

I took a chance on love like I took a chance on leaving home. I knew I needed to do it to prove to myself I could. I wasn't going to half-ass anything anymore.

Here I am, married for year and a half, and I can truly say I’m happy and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. But all of it happened because I was opening myself up to change.

I was inviting real love into my life; I was accepting someone could love me as much as I deserved; I could demand nothing less and have those demands met.

Taking chances and not knowing where they could lead gave me the opportunity to change the way I viewed love and life. None of these things were easy to do. I had to step out of my comfort zone and create the space for it to happen.

Change can be a very beautiful thing, but sometimes it can be like a rug being pulled out from under you. I have experienced the good side of it and the bad in a very short timeframe.

Flashback to May 2014, I was a newlywed. I moved to the US with my foreign husband who is a born-and-bred American, and here I was, a foreigner again. This was by far the biggest change I’ve had to get used to.

I was now unemployed and regarded as an army "dependent." I hate that word for all that it is because it somehow implies my inability to be an entity without my male counterpart.

I was thousands of miles away from my family and my friends. I knew no one but my husband and his family, and my homesickness was real. I was having waves of sadness, frustration, anger and feelings of hopelessness.

The weirdest part about all of it was I was feeling immense guilt for feeling this way. I had a roof over my head, money in the bank; we were eating well, going out every weekend, even indulging in our sneaker fetish.

I was forcing myself to feel that way. I had it out for myself, punishing myself for not succeeding at the pace I used to, or the pace I wanted to. I wasn't ready to accept I needed to be patient in order for everything to fall together.

Sometimes it sure as hell felt like it was falling apart. I needed the struggle because it makes me appreciate everything so much more.

The struggle makes me realize that for great things to happen, we have to carry burdens. I have learned to accept change when it was going great and presenting things in my favor, but I truly learned how to grow through the hardship.

Growth requires progress; sometimes, it’s fast-paced, and sometimes, it’s slow. We can’t progress if we stagnate. We have to keep pushing, even if the push is a few miles per hour and even if we need help getting there.

There shouldn’t be shame when it comes to feeling pain because sometimes pain stirs up something inside us that can open us up to change in the same way happiness can open us up to it.

Change happens when you’re ready for it to happen, and if it hasn’t happened yet it’s because it isn’t the right time. But don’t ever stand there waiting for things to happen for you because they won’t.

Sometimes I still think things aren’t happening at a fast enough pace, and in no way is that fair to all the great things that have happened in the past.

If you look at your life a year ago, and look at it now, I’m pretty sure you can list a few things that have changed. Maybe you got a promotion, new job, new car, broke up with your lame-ass boyfriend, went back to school or did something simple like learn to cook, tried a new restaurant you love, or like me, started your own blog. All of these things mean progress.

Don’t be conditioned to a life of security. If you want change, seek it, demand it and it will happen, whether a month from now or even a year from now.

Change for me has become an intricate thing. I spent my early 20s selfish and caring about what I wanted. Now that I’m married, I consider someone else’s life as much as I consider my own.

I think about my choices and how they affect him. Love has made me selfless and allowed me to accept that when things change for me, they change for him too.

Marriage is a partnership, and two people go through changes, often not together. Even when it is together, it's not the same for each person, but it’s important to be aware that when change occurs, the love doesn’t and shouldn't.

Being an army wife, I have to condition my thoughts to the fact that my life is all about changes, and they happen at the very last minute and unpredictably. Home isn’t a location anymore; home is wherever the army sends us; home is wherever he is, and wherever he goes, I will surely follow.

Change brings so many lessons, some difficult to learn and burdensome to accept, but sometimes, change is needed, especially when you have nothing else to do and no other options.

If I could attribute one word to my journey for the past year, it would have to be "change" because there’s been so much of it. I’ve had to learn to adapt in ways I never thought I’d had to, and I’ve had to grapple with a lot of personal truths I wasn’t aware of.

People will always discourage you. They will doubt your choices; they will reveal their own inhibitions and try to force them onto you, but you have to keep doing what allows you to be loyal to yourself.

Listening to the naysayers will deter you from doing what you want.

If you make a mistake, count it as experience. But what if that decision ends up being the best one you’ve ever made?

Make the changes in your life where you see fit, and if you are like me who has to consider another person when considering changes, just know that the person who loves you will support you no matter what.

Life isn’t a straight road. If it were, it would be the easiest thing to travel on. When we work toward something, it builds character. It builds strength, and we appreciate the outcome more.

So make sure you walk life’s path with someone who understands that, someone who will take all the curves and roadblocks with you, whether that person is a husband, wife or friend.

Appreciate the good changes and grow from the ones that aren’t as favorable. Pray, plot, prepare, perform and remember to be the change you want to see.