Growing up I was a bit of a tomboy. Sure, for many years I wore summer dresses in the winter and played with my Barbies for hours on end. But as I grew a little older I loved running around the farm, driving every dirt bike, go-cart, 4-wheeler or truck in sight, climbing trees, catching crayfish in the creek, and wrestling with my little brother (who I could still beat, at this point). One summer, when I was about 9 or 10, I spent every single day in a pair of shorts, a sports bra, and a backwards baseball cap. I was happy being as grubby as possible. Being “one of the boys” was fun. Until my cousin, a year younger than me, also wanted in on the fun. She and I had grown up side-by-side, best friends from the beginning. But she didn’t live on a farm, why was she trying to change into a tomboy, which in my adolescent mind, she clearly wasn’t? Imitation is supposed to be a form of flattery, but I was annoyed.
Even at that age, I believed that people weren’t supposed to change. My parents had always been as I knew them. My sister and brothers were the same. I was the same, and always would be. This is how it was supposed to be, because if we didn’t stay the same, then how could there be stability in anything else in life?
I held on to this belief for a long time. I didn’t sell my beloved horse even when I moved away from Minnesota, because I believed that would mean abandoning him and a piece of me. I held on to relationships, simply for the fact that I had been in them for so long. I believed in ideas, though I wasn’t even sure of them anymore.
Inevitably, deep down, I began to realize I was doing the one thing I had been so afraid of: changing. Then, when I looked around, I realized others were also developing. My parents had evolved. My siblings, extended family, friends; everyone was doing it. It was painful and confusing at first. How could we just so casually abandon who we were?
The word “change” had always held a negative connotation in my mind. It meant becoming something new, being completely different. Forgetting a past that had brought you to where you were.
This week I learned there is a big difference between change and growth. Growth is an ongoing process, a development. I finally realized that change, when sprouted in the soil of growth, is actually the most constant thing in life.
Our emotions and intellect are constantly being influenced and shaped by our experiences. Growth is not only constant, it is beautiful. Realizing this has alleviated a lot of stress of trying to be something I used to be. Growing does not mean deserting who I was, it means allowing myself to become who I am.
My younger cousin and I, pre-tomboy era.