The Truth About Change

Ash Chow the truth about change

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.

Change.

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.

Know anyone feeling like they’re stuck in the same spot forever? Sharing is caring!

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Need someone to show up for you?

Then you’re in the right place!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends.  I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation, fun stories & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for?

Enter your email to receive confetti and encouragement in your inbox every Humpday!

Check Out These Other Gems Written Just For You:

Observations of Loneliness

When people find out that I write weekly on the internet, they inevitably ask where I get my inspiration from. If I’m honest, there’s 22 years’ worth of stories backed up in my mind, but sometimes the words don’t want to come out. This sounds strange for someone who’s literal job is to produce words on paper, but I have to respect that some stories are living entities that don’t want to be born before their time.

At times like this, I like to turn to my friends and ask what struggles they want me to write about. Because I don’t want this page to be about me. I may be drawing from my own experiences as a springboard, but it’s never been about me. At its simplest, I want this to be a place where people who’ve gone through hard things can come and feel understood.

And so, when it came time to find a topic last Wednesday, I asked a friend what she needed to hear.

“Write about loneliness,” she told me.

And I hesitated.

Loneliness is a subject I knew I’d have to open up about, but I didn’t feel like I could unpack such a weighty topic with the finesse or justice it deserved. So I copped out last week and re-posted something else. But since then, a lot of lonely hearts have been reaching out to me and it’s gotten to the point where I can’t delay this post any further. I’m learning that while there are some things that benefit from us sitting and waiting, there are others that we need to have the courage to speak up about- even when the words aren’t pretty.

So for the lonely ones, this post is for you.

***

I haven’t felt lonely in a long time.

I say that because there was once a time where all I felt was lonely. I was straight up dripping in loneliness. I couldn’t tell you what joy or excitement was, because all I had was years of heaviness and isolation wrapped around my bones. Loneliness would be there to greet me in the morning when I opened my eyes. And it would crawl into my bed every night like an unwanted visitor. I would go about my days with an achy, gaping hole in my heart wishing for something or someone to fill it, and I would despair that my whole life would be tainted with this longing.

Being able to write ‘I haven’t felt lonely in a long time,’ is a hopeful reminder that it passes. For someone who once thought that I would literally bleed out loneliness, this sentence is a reminder that it doesn’t sit on your chest forever. Like the majority of other emotions, it’s transient. Although it may feel like days, months, or god forbid, years, before it finally dissipates- it always does.

If you’re in the depths of a lonely period now, then that sentence likely won’t do anything for you. Loved ones have probably said it to you so many times now that it no longer has any soothing effect. It’s become as tired as a cliché. But the thing with clichés is that people wouldn’t repeat it unless it was true.

At its surface, I find loneliness is triggered when I notice it’s been a while since anybody’s checked in to say ‘hey’ or ‘how are you?’ Or when it feels like everyone in the world is having fun without me. My gut reaction is to wonder what’s wrong with me? What fatal flaw do I have that pushes people away or makes me not worth missing?

Now that I’m on the other side, I know that it’s rarely a ‘me’ thing. 80% of the time, people are likely too caught up in their own lives to think about reaching out. Although I don’t doubt that the intention and love is there, the execution can be lost. As easy as it is to turn inwards and nit-pick at our flaws, the truth is that we’re living in a world with other unique humans. Some people may express their love in different ways while others struggle to be the first to initiate a catch up. A lot of my friends have to recharge on their own before they have the energy to invest in others.  People not reaching out probably has nothing to do with you. Often, it’s a prompting to set an example and be the invitation.

Yet I also know that loneliness isn’t just about who’s messaging you every day. You can feel the ache of loneliness when you’re alone and wonder if you’ll meet anyone who fits you. Or you can feel the hollowness when you’re surrounded by people who don’t really know who you are.

When I’m brave enough to sit down with my loneliness and really look it in the eye, I find that it hits when I don’t feel seen and known. When I feel like I’ve been overlooked. Loneliness floods in when I feel misunderstood or like nobody ‘gets me.’ At our core, I think that’s what we’re all craving. We just want a tangible reminder that we’re not forgotten. That we’re seen and known in our entirety and every part of us is loved.

But babe, to be seen and known is to let other people in. There’s a tendency in us to want to come off as Neyo’s Miss Independent. We want the world to know what we’re killing it on our own and we don’t need no man, friend or missus.

But if I were to ask you to be really honest with me- like, gun-to- your-head-tell-me-the-truth-type-of-honest- I bet you’d tell me that you’re keeping people at a distance because you don’t want them knowing about the dark spots in your life. The things that cause you shame.  The opinions you don’t want to air. But if loneliness is here to teach you anything, it’s that you need people.

It’s coded into our DNA to love and lean on people. We were made to relate to others and to hear the words ‘me too,’ when we open up about the scary parts of our lives. Don’t brush off your desire for companionship or write it off as weak. Being open about needing people is the most courageous thing you can do. So tell the ones you love about the things that makes your heart ache, the things that keep you up at night or the wounds you’ve kept hidden. There are people who are just dying to understand everything about you, if only you just give them the chance. For so long I’ve thought that a lot of my past was too shameful to let anyone know. But all of us are just looking for someone to connect with. Loneliness dissipates when you begin to let others in to your dark spots.

The danger comes when you rely too much on people. Your loneliness reveals the things you’re relying on to plug up the holes in your life and be your saviour. To be lonely is to feel endless waves of hurt and angst, and it’s tempting to seek solace in someone else’s arms or the Disney movies on Stan. But there comes a point where you have to really ask yourself if you’re just using other people to distract you from the discomfort in your life?

A few years ago, when loneliness was all I felt, I would claw at anything and anyone just to avoid acknowledging the gaping hole in my heart. I would message people I had no business messaging and start conversations so I would feel a little less lonely. There was once someone I clung onto so hard because I didn’t want to have to sit with my own thoughts. Even though I knew I had to let him go, I would always reach back out again when it got too hard. In the game of push and pull, I would always be the winner.

I think we’ve all been guilty of clinging onto people who have long outgrown their storyline in our lives because we don’t want to deal with the aftermath of loneliness when they leave. But we run the risk of turning people into collateral damage when we do so. More often than not, those relationships end up disintegrating and two hearts inadvertently get hurt. This idea of collateral damage is a whole other post for a whole other Wednesday. But for now, I try my hardest to check myself and make sure I don’t play with people’s emotions as a distraction.

You can ask people to sit in the mess with you for a while. You can try your best to describe what it feels like to hurt on the inside, all whole knowing that your words will barely scratch the surface of what it feels like to ache with loneliness. But you can’t place people on a pedestal and ask them to rescue you.

Loved ones would tell me that I had to really be comfortable with who I was alone before I could ever invite someone else to be a part of my life. And I would hate that. Like really hate that. I’d have to resist the urge to throw something at the person who said that to me. Because I wasn’t a stranger to being alone. I’m the self-proclaimed Queen of losing people and having to pick up the pieces by myself.

But it’s one thing to squirm through the whole lonely period while clawing at others to distract you. It’s another thing entirely to be able to sit with the discomfort and find its purpose.

When I sit down with others and tell them about the dark period in my life, they inevitably say that they would never have imagined I was lonely because I was always surrounded by friends. All to say, that no one is immune from loneliness. There’s no vaccination you can take. It’s as inevitable as the sun rising and setting. It comes and it goes.

Loneliness will strike me again at any time. It may come as soon as I stop writing this and watch other people have fun without me on social media. Or it may lay dormant for a while only to come raging back in full force on Feb 14th. Loneliness can feel like a pit in our stomach even when we’re with lots of people. Or it may feel cold and hollow when you sit across from someone and feel like they don’t really know who you are.

Something beautiful happens in your loneliness though. It’s something you’ll only be able to see once you’re past all the heaviness and angst, but rest assured it’s there. Loneliness is what it means to be human. It’s up there along with love and joy. As much as you’ve always wanted to fast forward through the achy breaky parts in your life, loneliness is there to widen your capacity for love. It breeds in you a deep compassion, astounding empathy for the hurting ones and an appreciation for who you are when you’re on your own.

Know anyone that feels lonely? Sharing is caring!

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Everyone struggles to get through Humpday. It’s this dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed. Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation, fun stories & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for?

Enter your email to receive confetti and encouragement in your inbox every Humpday!

Gems written just for you:

Brick by Brick: Thoughts on Building Community

If you’d asked me two years ago about finding community, I wouldn’t have had an answer for you.

To me, ‘community’ was a buzz word you used to tempt people into moving to a retirement home. 

To know my story is to know that I used to be part of friendship groups with girls who didn’t have each other’s best interests at heart. I thought that the type of people who had your back during the highs and lows of life, only existed within the pages of books and on the screens of sitcoms. I remember laying on a friend’s couch one night watching Carrie Bradshaw rotate through men and shoes and handbags. But never her friends.  “Do people really stay so close for that long?” I asked my friend. “Nope,” she said while stuffing more chips in her mouth. “Only in movies.”   

 Worn out by disingenuous motives and people that chipped away at my self-esteem, I clung onto wounds from the past and built walls to barricade others from getting too close to me. At a housewarming, while some were huddled together having intimate conversations, I stuck close to the booming music and ducked out of conversations that threatened to go beyond “how are you?” Although I craved a deeper connection, I didn’t have the energy to open myself up to others only to be disappointed again.  After all, what what the point of meeting him, or her, or anyone, if they were just going to ditch when the going got tough.  

Sometimes, I wish the lessons we needed to learn came in the form of handwritten letters tucked inside envelopes, titled Lesson 0.15: How to Make Friends That Last.  It would come every month alongside our phone bill, and we’d all be inspired to be better humans. I’m still negotiating with God over this. 

My lesson came in the form of a misunderstanding, severe lack of communication, and people who were desperate to avoid discomfort. It came in the form of  hitting rock bottom, a divine intervention, and then, finally, a clean slate. 

Someone I now call a true friend, dragged me through the doors of a place that promised love, welcoming, and belonging. But I still clung onto my old attitude like an old, worn out cardigan with shrunken sleeves that I couldn’t bear to throw away. Week after week, I would sit on the sidelines as a blurred face in the crowd, make brief small talk with the people next to me, and then speed home straight after the event. 

If God were to write me a letter, I imagine mine would read something like this: 

Girl, throw out the damn cardigan. 

It’s easy to wait for people to approach you first and get salty when they fail to notice you. It’s easy to stick to superficial conversations and wonder why nobody knows who you really are. It takes a certain type of boldness to  step out of the boat and go deeper with a few. 

His lesson is clear. If I really wanted something different- if I wanted to feel seen and known and loved by a group of genuine people I could one day call community, I’d have to be the first to suck it up and do the heavy lifting. 

I know nothing about building houses, carpentry or cementing. I once convinced myself I could build a life with a tradie, only to quickly realise that was not my destiny. But I imagine any type of building starts off small, with the repetitive laying down of one brick after another until you’ve constructed yourself a solid, sturdy house. 

Building a community from the ground up is the same. You roll up your sleeves and lay out the groundwork by asking people out with the intention of doing life with them. Most people will eagerly accept. Others just happen to lead busier lives. There are no guarantees the work will be easy. Not everyone will be as welcoming as you hope. But often, difficult people are placed in our lives to help us appreciate the ones who are warm and make you feel included. 

If a deeper connection is what you’re craving, then you’re going to have to be the first to show some skin. When the obligatory small talk is over, dive for the deeper stuff. Ask “how are you” and then say “No, really. How are you?” when they give you a vague, generic answer. Be open and honest about the fact that you don’t have your life together, and provide a no-judgement zone when others tell you the same. In a world where everyone is desperate to show off the highlights, your vulnerability is refreshing and invites the other person to open up about their secret struggle too. Someone once told me they felt safe confiding in me about their burdens and I nearly cried. In its simplest form, I think that’s what community is: a group of imperfect humans providing a safe space to share about their imperfect lives. 

Done well, your tribe will be made up of cheerleaders, world-shakers and shoulders to cry on. It’ll involve people who let you share difficult truths over pancakes and maple syrup, and friends who write you love letters when you’re feeling unlovable. It’s 2 am calls when anxiety is keeping one of you awake and driving for 50 minutes to their home because somebody has to put in the effort. Your community will be made up of people who bake the cakes and buy the flowers. Some will cook you dinners after you give them lifts, and others will open up their couch to you after a hard day. Ever brick you’ve ever stacked in love will come together to build you up. They’ll show up for you, and you’ll show up for them. 

I thought about all this recently when a friend told me about life at her new church. “I’m pretty sure only about two people like me there,” she said in a passing comment. 

After I got in my car, I wish I’d told her that it takes time. That nothing worthwhile was ever created by just showing up once. Whatever you seek to build will require commitment and a promise that you’ll keep working at it. To neglect this process would lead to a flimsy shelter that would barely survive a drizzle of rain, let alone the storms of life. 

Community isn’t built in a day. It’s showing up when things are messy. It’s the first to be vulnerable and the extending of an invitation. It’s shaking off your perfect facade and getting knee deep in the muddy trenches with one another. It’s tears, being honest, having fights and making up. It’s a combination of hello’s, goodbye’s and I’ll see you soon’s.

Community is not sitting on the sidelines with a wish to be picked. It’s stepping up to the plate, putting skin in the game and saying, ‘hey you, there’s no guarantee this will work, but I want to try this friendship thing  anyway.’  Its picking up and laying down one brick after the other in the form of coffee dates, house visits, and showing up for people till you’ve built a solid fortress that will be there to pick you up when life gets heavy. 

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’ve finally found yourself a solid tribe or maybe you’re picking up the pieces of a broken one and wondering if you have the energy to start all over again. If you’ve ever needed a letter to show up for you, let this be it:

Life isn’t meant to be done alone.

You’ll find your people.

Commit to the long haul.

Show up for one another.

Stack the bricks. 

 

When the fresh start to the week has worn off, but the weekend still feels ages away, you end up with humpday. This dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed.

 Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti* and encouragement to make humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for?

Enter your email to receive confetti* and encouragement in your inbox every Humpday!

Searching for more? Check out these gems: