As a kid, my family moved around a lot. We never really left the city we called home, but we did travel to different neighborhoods full of different people, stories, legends, and quirks. I never questioned it when I was in that season of life, but now that I’m in my third year of college and live there for a significant portion of the year, I’m realizing how much moving around effected me. Not necessarily in bad ways- just ways. For example, the concept of contentment has always been difficult for my heart to take in. When you’re in a new environment every couple of years, you start to see the world through an ever changing lens. For some people, this can really be detrimental. For others, it’s a growing experience. I like to think I’ve experienced a bit of both.
Because I am so used to change, the thought of traveling somewhere far away doesn’t scare me. I can see myself on the beaches of California, the busy streets of Chicago, or in the corn fields of small town New York. Like most things, this has its ups and downs. The good news is that I am very adaptable. New situations and challenges are always going to take a good deal of adjusting to, but they never make me want to quit. Adapting to college wasn’t as much of a struggle for me as it was for many students. Neither was working as a camp counselor with zero camp experience. I don’t always look forward to the challenge of adapting to new environments, but it has become a part of my story. I just know that I will have to grow with changes and that I will most likely walk away stronger.
The bad news is that I am constantly looking for somewhere else to go. Even if I really enjoy where I am and what I am doing, I find myself looking for the next step before I’ve even taken the first one. I don’t just anticipate changes, I expect them. Sometimes, I even plan them out. One of the most constant themes in my life has been change, and because of that, I find change to be stabilizing. If I go somewhere new, try a new skill, pick a new major, or make a new friend, I feel like my life is going as planned (or at least happily without one). When things start to become stagnant, I become worried and anxious that I’m not growing or learning anything new. That freaks me out. Routine is a safe space for most people, but for me, it’s a fight against boredom.
Lately, I have been noticing my discontent in several areas of my life, and it has been quite eye-opening. I realized what a life time of change has done to me. My brain is hard wired to change even when things are good. Recently, I realized that I am an adult and I can make the decision not to change something. I don’t have to “fix” something that I am satisfied with. Even though my instincts may say otherwise, I don’t need to move away to discover a piece of myself or to make myself happy. Happiness is a mindset. My identity cannot be found anywhere besides where I am right now. I can look for a cool experience and I can wish to do something great, but I cannot make myself happy by trying to find somewhere new to call home. I don’t need to change my major five more times or go in search for new friends. I can choose accept where I am, who I am, and what I am doing. I know that none of these things will stay the same forever, and that’s fine. But for the time being, I choose to be content with all that I have.
If you’re not content with what you have, where you are, or who you are, I hope that you can get there. You can be content while on the road and you can be content if you’re stuck in a small town. It’s not a matter of circumstance. It’s a matter of choice and in finding the beauty of the hand you’ve been dealt. Even if life is messy and hard, you can choose joy. And if life is simple and structured, you can choose joy. It’s okay to want a new challenge, but you can’t always “find yourself” when you up and leave. Sometimes self-discovery involves working with what you’ve got. People and places change all the time, so there’s no sense in putting all of your hopes in either of those things. Find the joy in what you have and be content with stability. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Take off your shoes, stay a while.