Thoughts and Things: On Changes, Grieving Your Past Self, and Uncomfortable Familiarity

Tiled mosaic with words "change" repeated over and over in some places.

There’s something unbearable about being stuck as yourself. The inertia of self looms far greater than any myth of self-improvement or ability to change. Sure, we can change in some ways. But the core essence of our being–what makes us US–is not changed.

Despite my own efforts to self-improve, I’ve always wanted to just run away. That’s who I am at my core. When I was 18, 19, 20, I wanted to move to Florida. I didn’t realize I was really just running from myself. I always thought that’s where I would end up one day. A beach somewhere, I mean. Maybe not Florida exactly. Maybe California. Life had other plans for me, so I’ve been kinda just batting down curve balls left and right until I made it to my 30s. Any day now the dust will settle and I can get back on track for that life I planned.

In 2019, I moved to Indiana. It was a temporary thing from the beginning. We always knew we would move back one day because family and better job prospects are in Tennessee. Now that chapter is over and we are back. I cannot fathom how two years have gone by so fast. Already come and gone. Indiana is now our past all of the sudden when it was my reality and my home so tangibly, so vividly just a short while ago. I’m back in Tennessee, seemingly suddenly. How the fuck did that happen?I mean, a few other things have happened since then and probably have been affecting my mental health and perception of time, but I feel caught off guard.

I’m back home, but it doesn’t feel like home. I was born and raised in Tennessee, but it feels strange and cold now. Nothing feels like home. The streets are all familiar. I know all their names. But it doesn’t mean much to me anymore. I have these moments where I say, “Oh, I remember that place.” A memory of a place, of a time, with a specific person. These moments happen often. It feels so far off though and distant. Like it was a whole other lifetime. I’m a new person now. An ex-Hoosier.

The speed of things in the Midwest was predictable and consistent. Tennessee now feels fast and aggressive. I’m slow and stupid now. Everything’s the same in some ways. How can it feel so different then? It feels rough around the edges, like a person I once knew. The intimacy you once shared fades into your memory, until the details are blurry. Just fragments of a memory. A stamp upon your emotions. It’s never the same as the memories. I don’t know why. It hasn’t changed much.

I was only gone 2 years. Why does everything feel so strange? Maybe it’s me who changed.

But people never really change, do they?

I’m still angry, dissatisfied on the inside. I have learned that the answers I have found aren’t for the same questions I asked. I’m more content in the unknown, but I still don’t let myself reach full satisfaction. What is life to be satisfied all the time? I want to be in pursuit. It’s okay I don’t have all the answers. I also cope better in some areas. I’m the same old shitty person in some others. But I’m improving what I can and learning to be. I’m doing my imitation of happy and I’m happy with that.

Except I don’t even remember who I was before the chaos and stress of moving forced me to abandon everything. That’s an exaggeration, but since we have been in Tennessee (a month now), I feel all I care about are where to get the best deals on end tables and what colors to put in the kitchen and bathroom. That’s typical for moving. Things will settle down. I knew it would be like this. But in the meantime, I feel like half a person. Half a person who has uprooted her life twice in 2 years and the second time was during a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic.

I am ready for that dust to settle. Any day now.

I get caught up in what ifs. What if I had chosen a different partner, what if I had moved to Florida or California, what if I had done a different career path?

Maybe I would be a millionaire by now or completely content and enlightened. Maybe I would have started my own cult by now because I would have done everything else.

You can’t get caught up on what ifs, I tell myself. They only slow you down and they are NOT productive. I made the choices I did to get here, for better or for worse. The only course I can change is the future. Maybe I didn’t always choose right. Hell, I know I didn’t. I want to know who has. Maybe I could have stuck with this hobby or that career interest. Stayed friends with this person or married that person instead. Kept this job, never started that other one, and so on and so forth. We all could have done things better. My life is just a series of events where I’m cleaning up after the last mess I made.

I miss the fierceness and boldness of the old me. She was a little reckless, but she had a good spirit. The new me is anxious, afraid, always more worried about appearances and what other people think than I ever should be. It’s not as easy to change that as I want it to be. The internet makes it sound so simple. You can sum anything up online (I love doing it on this very website) and make it seem like you have a solution. But having a solution and implementing it are different.

I wonder what the old me thinks of the new me. She probably thinks I changed too much.

But people never really change…do they?

The old me and the new me are in a neverending search for that Magical Answer. An absolute truth. I’d even settle for a comforting lie if it was convincing enough. What I have learned that younger Jessica didn’t know is that there is no panacea. No silver bullet. I’ve looked–I should know. Self-improvement, growth, and a hard look at yourself are the only ways that any of your own bullshit will be fixed. Everything else in the world? Crapshoot. You only have control over yourself. That is a fact I have to remind myself of almost daily. And honestly, I barely feel in control of myself sometimes.

I feel more unsettled and unsure lately. I have a new job in unfamiliar territory, both literally and figuratively, as far as industry. I don’t have an antidote. It’s been a month and I don’t feel right still. Tennessee feels ugly and dumb. Maybe it’s how they handled Covid, maybe it’s the god-awful, horrendous traffic in Middle Tennessee, maybe it’s the cultures and values of my specific community that I never really aligned with. All my pride in being a Tennessean seems to have evaporated.

I wasn’t in a better place mentally in Indiana. In fact, due to the pandemic and the temporary nature of our stay in Indiana, one could argue it was worse. I did not make any friends. I wasn’t able to volunteer because of Covid. I didn’t get involved in any activities or group events, at first because of procrastination, but then because of Covid. Really I could blame everything on Covid and that would be totally valid. From a mental and physical standpoint. Maybe that’s what the real problem is. Covid has changed the way my brain functions and has made me into a whole different person. Not the woman who left Tennessee. Someone else entirely.

But…people never really change. Do they?

The old me is somewhere under there, whoever that is. Maybe the “old me” is now just the pre-pandemic me that I am trying to find again. Aside from blaming Covid for everything, I don’t really know what my problem is. Why I am struggling so hard. Why I miss a place I didn’t really want to move to in the first place. Why I am having a hard time fitting into a nice condo that I love in an area that I really like overall. I’m close to family and friends again. I can stop putting life on hold and really live again. Whatever that means.

Why aren’t things just easy?

Why are things still so hard for me?

That familiar pain in my chest. The knot in my stomach. The sadness out of nowhere. I guess I’m about due for another depressive bout for no discernable reason. That’s also something the old me and new me have in common.

There are things I can do to combat it. Proactive things that I do when I want to try to stay at my best. I’m going to keep doing those things that give me light. Connect with friends. Make time to create. Self-care. Maybe eventually I’ll feel normal again.

Maybe I’ll never be normal again.

Maybe I never was.

Because people never really change. Not really, no.

Published by Jessica

Writer, YouTuber, streamer, gamer, yogi, self-improver--still trying to figure it all out

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