Impulsivity isn’t in my nature. I like what I know; I like knowing that by repeating the same actions constantly, I’ll be safe. Routines and unchanging habits have been pillars on which I can depend, and up until last November I didn’t see the problem with that arrangement. I didn’t see the issue with constantly participating in the same things and the same crowd that I had been for years on end; I didn’t know that I wasn’t living.
Changing the way you live your life doesn’t have to be some big, dramatic, cinematic thing. Not only is that impractical, but it’s also highly impossible; the most change stems from the little things. With that in mind when I resolved to extend the boundaries of my comfort zone last year, I knew that I had to be very particular about how I did it. Three manageable objectives fueled my journey toward living a fuller life, and fulfilling those goals has provided me with a plethora of experiences and opportunities that I would not have encountered otherwise.
Taking chances was the first and most dominant principal I adopted last year. It was easy to be fearful of change, as change had always signified breaking the rules. To convince myself that it was okay and valid to adopt new things into my life was both difficult and liberating, as I realized that change doesn’t have to be a villain. I began to put myself out there more, taking chances by going to events where I would be exposed to new people and new ideas. One of the simplest ways I learned how to be comfortable with taking risks was by wearing clothing with prints and patterns that scared me! Last year, for instance, I came across a rubber duck-printed dress that made my heart happy and my head terrified. I could imagine wearing the dress, and a part of me wanted nothing more than to do just that, but I was mortified as to what people would say about it. Somehow I still ended up buying it, and I forced myself to wear it.
Ultimately, the decision to wear the bizarre duck dress came down to one thing: the dress made me happy, so why shouldn’t I wear it? I knew that, even if people had mean things to say about it, it wouldn’t have mattered because it wasn’t their dress, it was mine, and it brings me a lot of joy. The ducky dress, as I’ve come to call it, is one of my favorite things that I own now, and I laugh at the fact that I was afraid to wear it at one point. It always puts a smile on my face, and it has since come to symbolize my habit of taking risks in fashion. Among other small changes (such as speaking at local poetry slams to reduce my fears of performing or deciding to attend social outings where I get to meet new people), I learned how to extend myself comfortably without caring what people thought of my actions. Taking chances didn’t mean I had to force myself to go skydiving or leave home to travel the world—it meant incorporating new things into my life that hadn’t been there before.
The second item that worked to fulfill my life a little bit more was the pursuit of the things that I’m passionate about. Writing had always been a prominent part of my life—it was a hobby that I was happy practicing on the side. I had never allowed myself the freedom to see it as a career or something that could be pushed to the forefront of my life. But I was encouraged by an English teacher to stop thinking about the potential lack of monetary gain or competition regarding the job, and to instead focus on how I could apply my hobby to my life because it made me happy. She encouraged me to submit my writing to publications and websites because she believed I have a future in the field. And I listened. I allowed myself to listen to her and send my work out to websites and get rejected a million times before I was published. But regardless of what the outcome of each submission was, writing frequently made me happier than I’d ever been. By granting this craft the prominence it demanded, I granted myself a sense of purpose and passion that I had never encountered before, and this choice has impacted spheres of my life beyond my career. I’ve felt more freedom to be creative since realizing I could pursue what I’m passionate about instead of following the money. It’s easier for me to say yes to opportunities that allow me to be expressive, and I’m grateful for that. I realize that to be young and not as concerned with money as adults is incredibly special. In a lot of ways, my writing career has provided a sense of invincibility, and that has fueled me to pursue passion projects with a fervor I never had before.
Lastly, choosing to be positive has improved my life immensely. It was always a reflex of mine to be pessimistic and cynical about life and the events in it because that’s what I felt like I was supposed to do. Having a negative mindset was draining and counterproductive, but I didn’t know how to convince myself to behave any other way. The change was subtle for sure. It started with me wanting to be positive for other people, to be someone who others could look to for positivity. Obviously, it isn’t realistic to be upbeat and happy all the time—I’m prone to being as upset as the next person. But I’ve begun to choose positivity when presented with the opportunity; I think it’s more fun to look at the world with a smile on my face. This method has single-handedly become the guiding force in my life, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. Be it finding the will to go to a school dance or trying a new type of food, keeping a positive mindset has improved the way I participate in my life, allowing me to face new things without the skepticism I retained before.
With all that being said, I do understand that it isn’t possible for everyone to say they’re going to change their lives in the same ways I did. However, I’ve learned that the outcomes far outweigh the effort taken to change, and I encourage anyone who has the ability to assess their lives to see if there’s anything that needs to be altered. Ultimately, there’s no better feeling than knowing I am able to become the kind of person I want to be; there’s no better feeling than knowing I am not stuck in a finite mold.
By Sophia Moore
Illustration by Sabrina Oliveira