Crisp yellow leaves covered the damp cement. Scents from the nearby coffee shop diffused outside into the wet air. Small puddles of murky water pooled into the cracks in the sidewalk until my shoes were soaked and dirty. “Dorothea” by Taylor Swift echoed through my tangled earbuds at a volume high enough to cancel out noises from the people around me. My cheap, overfilled canvas of a tote bag dug into my left shoulder despite layers of clothing, including my oversized jacket on which my headphone wire kept getting stuck. I layered this pink jacket on top of my baggy sweater, causing the sleeves to scrunch up and feel uncomfortably tight. I held my blue umbrella tightly in hopes the wind wouldn’t embarrass me and try to flip it inside out again like it had before (in front of so many people). It was my favorite time of the year. Halloween right around the corner, failed plans of going to the cider mill or the pumpkin patch, wearing thin jackets in super cold weather so I don’t get made fun of for wearing a winter jacket too early. And of course, the leaves, the weather and the time all change. Change most people have been excitedly waiting for all year, but change I’ve been dreading.
I never liked the idea of change. As a kid, I cried on the last day of school, the last day of summer and well, the last day of anything. My schedule stayed the same every week: go to school, go home to do anything but my homework and play an occasional piano stroke, go to the dance or tutoring class my mother forced me to take. I dreaded Extracurriculars simply because it interrupted my daily routine of doing nothing. Even my morning schedule stayed the same each day:
1) Sleep through all ten of my alarms
2) Wake up to my dad dragging me out of bed
3) Shower and get dressed with haste
4) Have my dad drive me to school while he lectures me about why I need to start waking up on my own
5) Force my dad to pull over so I could finish the breakfast I intentionally procrastinated eating before joining the drop off line of cars that extended way past the school parking lot.
Every time I broke this routine, I’d feel lost and decline into a week of falling behind. And, as much as I wish this was something I can attribute to the naivety of my past self, all of this still resonates.
I order the same foods and go to the same restaurants. I hang out at the same few places and talk to the same people. I follow the same routes when I drive. I’ll even listen to the same song on repeat for two weeks straight. I’ll skip class a few times because I was sick, and next thing I know, I haven’t been to class in over a month. Once I break a routine, I can no longer just go back like nothing happened. It caused me to get used to a new routine of skipping class. So now, I’m scared to start going to class again and break away from the comfort zone I created through a routine of staying home. I get nervous and feel overwhelmed every time I have to go somewhere new. It takes an hour of me second guessing myself to order food I haven’t tried before. I visibly shake getting into my car knowing I have to drive on a road I’ve never taken before.
I think my hatred for change stems solely from fear. Maybe my fear of growing up? Missing out? Wasting my youth? Or maybe my fear of the future? The unknown? The uncertainty? Or perhaps a mix of all of them. I see other people my age living their life to the fullest, and I can’t help but compare them to myself and what I am doing, or not doing. I’ve spent a good amount of time missing out, whether it be attributed to how strict my parents were or just cause I’ve always had a hard time making good friends. I’m scared of growing up because I question if life will ever be the same? I missed out this year, will I ever get the chance to redo it. Maybe I hate change because I’ve convinced myself that I no longer have 100 percent control of my life. I want time to stay still so I can rest comfortably in my routine life, but change pushes me out of that comfort zone, making me feel like I lost control of my life. I feel like change takes away any structure in my life, and mentally I relate having structure to having control. In reality, a lot of change occurs as a result of my own actions, but in my head I fixate on the small changes that just happen unprovoked. The changes in my life are not solely in my hands, and I can’t guarantee anything. And that scares me, because how can I not have 100 percent control over my own life. I am responsible for myself, yet I feel like I don’t have full control over it. And the outcome scares me. The possibility of a negative outcome drives me further away from trying anything new and breaking from my routine. It drives me away from any sort of change.
But a part of me wishes that I could be that adventurous girl that hates routine life. The girl that drops everything to move to a different country or travels on a spur-of-the-moment decision. And sometimes I try to be that girl. I’ll join my friends on a last minute plan that I have to change my entire schedule for or force myself to try new things. But as much as I try to pretend that I am okay with change and breaking from my routines, I’m really not. But in all honesty, I love my routines. I love knowing that every Wednesday I have dinner with my friend. And on the way to see her, I take the same path. I pass the same stores, cross at the same signals. I see the same girl by the base of the same tree reading her book. I listen to whichever song I have chosen for that week, again and again. And I meet her at the same place I did last time. It makes me feel safe. A feeling I crave and have searched my whole life for. A feeling of bliss and comfort. One that is sharply taken away from me every time I break a routine, or something in my life changes. And while I admit I love my routines and there is nothing wrong in having them, I shouldn’t have to rely on them to feel safe. Change shouldn’t scare me the way it does.
Recently, I have been pushing myself to break away from these routines, just a little. Instead of meeting at our usual restaurant, we meet at the one 5 minutes away. Instead of walking through the diag, I’ll go around. Instead of only ordering Totoro’s spicy tempura tofu roll every week, I’ll get that and something different (even though I usually never like the side order). I’m trying my best to get used to the idea of change, but it still feels overwhelming, and I panic. So for now, when the leaves change color, the weather gets colder and clocks get turned back an hour, the season changes, for everyone but me.
MiC Columnist Roshni Mohan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.