With the passing of 2018 came the end of a two-year long relationship. So far, I have greeted each morning of this new year with a yawn, a stretch and a lonely gnawing in my chest. This is due, in part, to the fear of change. I know that the year ahead of me brings forth a change in my life that I can’t yet begin to imagine, and that knowledge hangs above me; stagnant, threatening, looming.  With rationality and logic, I know that these feelings do not negate that the ending of my first relationship was for the best, and there will come a day where I can listen to a love ballad without tearing up. But, that knowledge doesn’t stop the tears from spilling or my chest from aching or my thumbs from compulsively typing ‘sad songs’ into Spotify in search of the perfect playlist to soundtrack my afternoon, lying in bed and reading, trying to distract myself with anything that will allow me to escape petrifying reality.

As humans, it is in our nature to fear the unknown; the fear of change is an innate instinct, instilled to protect us from the potentially harmful. Nevertheless, this fear can be incredibly stifling, preventing us from taking the necessary actions that allow us to progress and grow. My earliest recollection of the fear of change is my first day of primary school. It was 2006 and I remember standing in the foyer of my new reception classroom, the air smelled like powder paints, my freshly ironed blue sweatshirt and grey skirt felt foreign, unfamiliar against my skin. Despite the welcoming, friendly faces of my new teacher and his assistant, or the encouraging words murmured in my ear by my mum as I stood by her, nuzzling into her side, I was terrified. Eventually, I took those tentative steps into my new school, after a long period of being plied with encouragement from my mum as she attempted to coax a frightened four-year old me into the brightly decorated unknown. 

I then proceeded to cry for the majority of that day, but that is besides the point; at four years old, (albeit with many tears and at the sacrifice of one carton of Ribena, thrown in stroppy rebellion), I had taken a major step towards the realisation that change, however scary, is not always a bad thing. Now I find myself again, filled with the same fear and uncertainty I had experienced at four years old. Although the scenario may not be the same, the reluctance and unease I feel is so familiar and I am again having to coax myself into taking those first cautious steps into the unknown with the same gentle words of encouragement used by mum all those years ago.

This change in my life is a chance for me to reflect on my shortcomings and work to improve them. As someone who struggles to be open with my emotions, I am thankful for this hurt as it has granted me the freedom to be guiltlessly vulnerable. Through my own heightened emotions, I am able to see the quiet strength and courage it takes to be able to be clear about your feelings. As a society we have tricked ourselves into believing that strength is derived from apathy and emotionlessness, and to display emotion and softness is a sign of weakness. The opposite is true. 

Apathy is easy, it takes immeasurable strength and courage to bare your soul and allow others to see who you truly are. We have a tendency to try and conceal our emotions by way of self preservation, as this transparency of feeling is daunting as it puts us in the position to be scrutinised and rejected at our most vulnerable. But, love is born out of this same vulnerability, and to deny others the opportunity to see you at your most vulnerable is to deny yourself the chance to receive love and care in the way so many of us desire.

Ultimately, I don’t know what this year has in store for me, but I am determined to embrace change. I am in no rush to heal. I know that any attempt to rush this process will only prolong it. Yet, with the passing of each day, the hurt in my chest eases a little and I can breathe more easily. This painful experience has given me an opportunity: to grow and bask in the glory of the light I emit. I am learning to to celebrate my own achievements, to hold my own hand through difficult moments and develop myself for the better. I am willing to be patient and show myself the same tenderness we are taught to reserve for a romantic partner. I will cherish myself, I will comfort myself and I will swoon over myself on the days where I look extra good

The four year old me was too young to know that stepping through those double doors into that brightly decorated classroom would pave the way to so many cherished, fond memories; as well as some moments that have defined the person I am today. Whilst I am older now; I find myself in a similar place, unaware of all of the wonderful experiences and people that await me. Whatever pain I may feel, however pervasive and seemingly inescapable, is necessary. There are lessons to be learned from this change and I am insistent on finding my silver lining. Right now, the smile on my face is real. This progress isn’t linear but it is constant.

Follow Nali on Twitter: @Nalisheboo