It took me a while to be brave enough to leave my previous relationship. At first, I wanted to change my partner so we could be happy. I was certain that once he stopped smoking and started to get his shit together, our relationship would flourish. The idea of telling my friends and family that we were going to split up terrified me. Staying was the easiest way out. So I clung to a relationship that was broken and I stuck with him for a few years.
After some time, I began to understand that you can’t change people. Trying to change people is like trying to make poop smell like roses. It won’t happen, unless the person in question really wants to experience change for himself. I also learned that each of us has a messy season, and that is ok.
I wasn’t always a saintly person. I had a super messy season in college too. I got drunk, high, and skipped classes. I hurt those who hurt me, and those who loved me too. I had no gurus at that point, and I lived by my own rules. If people would have told me to change (and I’m sure many tried), their advice would have gone in one ear and out the other.
It was only in my late 20s/early 30s that enlightenment and change happened. I was suddenly no longer interested in drinking, partying hard, or trying to impress people. I guess maturity happened. However, I don’t regret the messy period of my life. I must admit that I had a blast. Those messy times shaped me and ultimately helped me transform in the woman I am today.
Before breaking up with my partner, I told him I was going to let him have his messy period (and boy was he having his messiest). So I stopped trying to change him, and instead I focused on changing my world. What would make ME happy? I asked myself. The answer was buying a backpack and a flight ticket, so I could travel solo through Europe. After my trip was over, I focused on my business, which I had formerly abandoned because I was too focused on making my partner change. I started going out more with friends. I went to cooking clubs, language cafés, picnics, and cultural events.
And while I was busy making my life beautiful, I met the most wonderful guy one can meet. I often think that if I had stuck to my own misery, and to my old relationship, I would have never met the love of my life. I wake up every day hearing how beautiful and loved I am. I sometimes have to pinch myself to check whether I’m dreaming. Life is just so good right now.
That being said, it doesn’t mean there are no disappointments in our relationship. My partner and I have our flaws, but we’ve learned to embrace those instead of trying to change them. I still have messy days too. There are days when I wake up with no energy to do my workout, and all I want to do is crawl onto the couch and watch my favorite chick flick. But the good news is that these messy periods usually last one or two days max. I have learned to take responsibility for both my happiness and unhappiness, while not blaming others for it in the process.
The other day, a friend of mine told me that writing school papers made her miserable, but that she really wanted to pass the last class of her semester. I then told her that she was focusing too much on the paper rather than focusing on the prize. “Think about how will you feel after you’ve passed this course,” I said. “Happy, free, and accomplished.”
Often times we stick to something that isn’t working because we are too focused on what we could lose. Or, we procrastinate because we’re too focused on the problem. If we could instead just focus on what we can get in exchange, moving on or taking action would be easier. Let me make this point clear with this quote by Rick Godwin:
“One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain.”
Think about how you will feel after you’ve changed that bad habit, ended that toxic relationship, or left that badly paid job.
Of course, if you’re in your messy “I-don’t-want-to-do-anything” period, my words will be like eggs on a Tefal pan. They won’t stick. I hope you will be ready to change when it’s time for you to change and become the person you most want to be. I am still learning how to do so too.