change

Quality Over Quantity

I am learning – slowly – not to hoard. These were tendencies I picked up from mother who had lost everything in my family’s journey to the US after the Vietnam War and did what she could to be as resourceful as she could – just in case we would need it some day.

That’s what happened to me. I “collected” things because I’d need them some day and most importantly, were on sale, free, and/or gifts. I tried to part with many things as I tidied up my living spaces, but sometimes it was hard for me to get rid of things. The hardest were gifts from others. Not necessarily because I’d need them some day, but because I valued that they were gifts to me from another person. That someone else had taken the time to think of me and to select something that would be fitting of me. If I were to throw them out/donate/sell, I would feel as if I am disrespecting or dismissing their efforts and their time to build a relationship with me.

Then I had a “collection” of nostalgic items – items that held no other purpose except to remind me of how nice that person had been to me once upon a time. I had clothing, stuffed animals, trinkets, jewelry, etc that I hadn’t worn, read, or touched in a long time, if ever. But I kept them just for that nostalgic piece. How do I choose which nostalgic item to keep or not keep? What will be important to me? I don’t have a rubric to fall back on. Do I keep the gifted origami $20 bill or unfold it and spend it?

That collection grows. It grows to where I have so many pieces, I don’t know what to do with them all. Soon, I have the very unfortunate task of trimming, of deciding which I keep and which I don’t. What stays – what goes? How do I determine the quality of this item? How can I measure how much this item means to me? When can I look at it, cherish it, and say, “It is okay. You served me a great purpose once upon a time, but I have changed now and I don’t need you in the same way I once did and I know you can’t change with me. You are free to go.”

While I know that I must trim, must not hoard, it doesn’t hurt nonetheless to say goodbye to these items. But I can’t keep them. We’re too different now and that’s okay. It’s not about making room for other nostalgic items, mind you. I don’t remove things just to add more things – or I try not to – but it’s about determining the quality of my life. I need to evaluate if what’s in it at the moment is a right fit for me and if it is not, do what I must to make it so we can fit.

So thank you, birthday gift of 1999. You served me well and now you must find a new home.

Change

People say one of the only constants (outside mathematics) in life is change. People will continue to change and be changed. The boy asked me the other day, after contemplating on the many years we had been together, “Have we changed?”

I would like to think that our experiences with one another and in our lives outside of one another have changed us, made us either better or worse than before. Sometimes it’s an experience we have that forever marks who we transform into. Sometimes it’s a relationship with another person that molds us into another being. Sometimes, it’s just the fact that you’ve eaten pizza rolls with a lack of exercise that forces you to change your life or change your clothes.

But when you have a relationship with someone, who changes? Is there a compromise? Can there be a compromise in which no one person “changes” who they are? I tell people that I’m quirky, I’m loud, I’m crass, and a lot of the things I do would probably be socially inappropriate. I know these things and I defend them because I have internalized these traits to be a part of who I am. If someone were to challenge me to do things differently, I’d have to think about what the purpose would be and really decide if I am modifying my actions and behavior for this person, or for the person I want to become. It’s not an easy task to distinguish between the two.

As I was typing this post, the entire stages of change went through my head. Also one of those social worker jokes.

“How many social workers does it take to change a light bulb?”
“Only if the light bulb wants to be changed.”

And in those cases, when the light bulb refuses to be changed, or isn’t ready to change, we back off. In the cases with whom I have relationships, I am realizing that I cannot do much if the other is not ready for change. However, I cannot be the only one that modifies myself if another is unwilling. Perhaps I am missing that value, perhaps there’s something that’s unclear and yet to be seen in the midst of this emotional fog. At the end of the day, this will still change me. For better or worse.

Values

This past week has given me a great challenge to identify and solidify my values. Some people are really great with their morals and convictions but then something else comes along. Sometimes, what becomes really difficult is to choose between two very different opportunities. I was given that option this week and through a lot of introspection, reflection, and processing with others, I came to several conclusions.

One, I love comfort and while change can be exciting and worthwhile, sometimes, it’s okay to want to stay in some place comfortable.

Because two, even if it is comfortable, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities for growth and challenges. They can be found anywhere and to be in a space where those options are unlimited is amazing.

Three, quality people are hard to find. Quality people who get your quirky jokes, have a love for cats, and support you and your growth, are hard to find.

Four, I judge myself and project on others way more than I should.

Five, it’s important to figure out what my values are because that will determine how motivated I shall be.

Six, asking for advice is not as scary as it sounds, even from people who you may not think to ask.

There are probably more, but that’s a pretty good list for now. And it’s quite possible that my values may change in a few years. Things happen and that can always shift my perspective on life. But for now, this is the one I’m working with and I’m pretty happy with that.