I flew home from England this time last year.
I’d completely forgotten about the date until I caught up with my friend Jess last week. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to bring the kindred spirits you meet overseas back home with you, and Jess was one of them.
“I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we’ve seen each other,” she said as we sat down. “What’s happened since then?”
A whole flurry of memories from our time abroad rushed through me as she said that. Some were nostalgic memories about the people I’d met, while others were of more traumatic incidents that I’d buried and repressed.
Then came the aftermath.
People who go on exchange or travel for an extended period of time like to joke about never wanting to come home. But for me, it was a hard fact. In the days leading up to my flight, I remember hoping that something would happen so I wouldn’t have to get on the plane. Maybe I could stay here for a few more months, I thought to myself- a sentiment that was destroyed once I checked the state of my bank account.
If I was strikingly honest, I was afraid of coming back home and feeling restricted by people’s judgements and the responsibilities of the real world. Above all, I was afraid of coming back to a place that I believed wouldn’t have good things for me.
And sure enough, once I landed, everything crumbled.
One of my favourite writers likes to label this point of time as the valley. The valley is something we all go through. It’s this rocky, cavernous space in-between each highlight moment that we have to navigate before reaching the top again. You might know it as the low point in your life when depression came back or when things felt stagnant, no matter how much you tried to move. It’s that place where you feel like giving up every two steps and you’re unsure if you’re ever going to see sunlight again.
Time slows to a crawl when you’re in this emotional pit of despair. All of a sudden you become this fortune teller who only ever predicts crappy things about your future. This person would most likely go out of the fortune telling business in real life, yet when it comes to our lives and our voice, we’re quick to believe the bad things.
My valley lasted for two whole months. This sounds like nothing in the grand scheme of things, but every day that passed felt as long as a year. All I could feel was anger towards a God that hadn’t pulled through on the promises He’d made, and a devastation that all I was ever going to know was the ache that stemmed from loss and heartbreak.
I’m only able to recount these memories now after looking back at my journals from last year and seeing every page with ‘I’m angry!’ and ‘This sucks!’ scribbled across it. But when I sat across from Jess and thought back to those moments last year, I could only feel a flicker of what used to be intense, fiery emotions.
All this to say, so much has changed since I landed back in Melbourne a year ago. A lot of the beliefs I held about God not having good things for me are gone, and the things I cried over or worried about are now only distant memories. The worst outcomes that I’d believed for myself never came true, and when I look back on the things or people that hurt me, the only thought that reverberates across my mind is how ‘the victory is sweet.’
“Everything has changed since last year,” I told Jess.
That word used to be a death sentence to me. Whenever I was in a good place with friends, family and work, I would always pray that everything would stay exactly the same. I was so sensitive to it that on my first day of my 2nd year of Uni, I could actually feel that everything was different and I called a friend that night to cry about nothing being the same. We sold our old house a few months ago and I remember texting everyone that I wasn’t emotionally ready to move out even though our new place was literally 10 minutes down the road.
But a few weeks ago, I got a string of messages from someone going through their own valley season. She’d lost faith, felt forsaken, and was basically quoting lines from my journal right back to me. And turns out, the thing I said that gave her the most comfort was that ‘things change.’
The way things are now is not how they’re going to stay.
This can be an incredibly scary sentence depending on what position you’re in. For some, it can feel like a sense of foreboding that the triumphant mountaintop they’re on now could come crumbling down. But for others, it’s a comforting reminder that things will get better. That the feeling of grief or heartbreak or lost sense of hope, is not going to sit heavy on their chest forever. That they will not have to bunker down and declare their emotional pit of darkness ‘home’ for the rest of their lives.
Regardless of what feeling it evokes, change is inevitable and necessary. We are not meant to stay stagnant. Gosh, what a boring life we would lead if we were allowed to remain as we were. There would be no room for new beginnings or second chances or fresh relationships. There would be nothing to give us momentum or push us forward. We are intricately designed to move and evolve and grow, and funnily enough sometimes growing requires us to go backwards first.
My close friends who know my past like to tell me all the time that I’ve changed. Yet all I can see and feel is that I’m the same mess of a human being I always was. But I think that’s how change manifests itself sometimes. There won’t be a finish line that tells you to stop running, or a banner declaring you’ve made it. Instead, the best, long-lasting, transformative changes happen incrementally over a long period of time. You most likely won’t see all the ways you’re growing when you’re in the thick of your mess, but rest assured it’s happening.
So, at every point you feel defeated, remember to hold onto this- things change.
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