I have witnessed a lot of change in my life over the last year. I now wash my hands after going to the bathroom and am fluent in pig Latin. It’s-ay oke-jay, get it? –ay?
One geographical change I made was a move to the West Coast.
Before moving I was consumed with the thought, “My life is going to change.” My friends and my family were also obsessed with telling me how different my life would be. Some went as far as to refer to my sister (who moved with me) and I as “pioneers.” We had left the safety of the down-home Kentucky comfort zone and drove into the sunset.
Three time zones later the only changes that were apparent to me were: I could no longer feel my legs after a 35 hour drive, I suffered a minor stroke due to the disparity in gas prices, and the smog – I thought it was just an overcast day – but no, the air is just that gross. Oh! And you do have to chop off your own arm or leg when going to pay for car registration – they will not cut off your arm for you.
Bottom line – nothing seemed to have really changed. There was no earth shattering realization that I was a different person.
But change was there, and it was going on right under my nose. I just hadn’t recognized it yet.
When was the moment I realized my life changed by living on the West Coast, you ask? I can only tell you now because my moment of realization happened just last week.
The moment struck me as I was visiting a friend (not on the West Coast). I opened a beer, drank the beer, and then asked where she kept her recycling.
Friend: “Psh, I don’t recycle. The trashcan is under the sink.”
At that moment I felt the weight of angel tears falling on my face. But before you grab your torches and lynching ropes and scream “Hippie!” in the town square, let me explain myself.
For five years I lived in a medium sized college town in the South while I was going to school and transitioning into the What-The-Hell-Do-I-Do-With-My-Life period. In order to recycle in this town you had to drive all of your recyclables out to the recycle center, and sort them between 12 or so chutes. There was a chute for glossy paper, newspaper, clear plastic, colored plastic – it was an effin hassle. I got a big trashcan and had every intention of recycling. Apparently that makes me a good person, or something.
The trashcan sat filled with recyclable materials for the better part of six months – I never made it to the recycle plant. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, right? Right. During that time my extra beer bottles and egg cartons were being thrown into the trash with the rest of the landfill.
So I get it, in some parts of our country it takes a bit more effort to recycle. (Which is actually really sad. Get your shit together, America.) Before the move I used to toss everything away without any emotional turmoil. Aluminum cans, glass bottles, cardboard, paper – you name it, it’s going to sit in a hole in the ground for the next 1,000 years thanks to me and all without a second thought.
Fast forward five years and a move West later….I am actually mad at my friend for not recycling.
By mad I mean I gave a huff, lifted the trashcan lid, and watched my glass bottle slide in with the rest of the Earth destroying garbage. Wah wah wah.
Then it really hit me. When did this happen? How did this happen? Who am I becoming? What else has changed that I don’t know about?
The funny thing about change is that you never realize when it’s happening, or what is actually happening.
You only recognize change after you’ve reached the Point of No Return. You know it is actual change when you can say, “Who I was before is different than who I am now - and I have no clue how I got here or when it happened.”
Watch one episode of Hoarders and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. These people go from having a clutter-free, “normal” home, to saving rotten fruit and defecating in grocery bags. They don’t know how they went from A to B, they can only comment on how things used to be compared to how things are now.
Everyone is subject to change. It is inevitable. We make changes to adjust in an evolving social world. We make life changes to pursue our own happiness. Sometimes we make changes based on someone else’s happiness, or someone’s vision of what our happiness should be.
Sometimes change happens to us whether we want it to or not. For better or worse. How do we cope with change?
My recycling revolution is pretty harmless. So what, I’ll judge you for throwing away glass bottles. If that’s the worse thing I think about you consider it a good day. (And we all know everyone in my life finds validation in what I think of them. Cough cough.)
What about the big changes? What about the changes that have the power to define you?
There’s nothing to do but saddle up, and submit yourself to the process of change. No words, no money, no success, no substance abuse, no amount of recycling can free you from the power of change. There’s no way around it. No place to hide. It’s like a tax audit and it’s happening to you.
The next thing you know I’ll be taking my laundry to the river and beating my clothes with sticks.