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Jill Knapp Headshot

Are You Too Afraid of Change?

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"I wish we could move," I said to my boyfriend, for what had to be the hundredth time that year. I'd look around New York and know that while part of me was comfortable, I didn't want to live there my whole life. My name is Jill, and I'm afraid of change. Well, at least I was.

My then-boyfriend is my now husband, and in two weeks, we will be moving 400 miles away from our current home. And everyone thinks we are crazy.

So, let's rewind. 14 years ago, I was a teenager. A very impressionable, very naïve teenager who hated where she lived. Like most teenagers, I had big dreams. I dreamt of going away to college and living in a cute college town where I would have the time of my life. I would emerge a mature, cultured person who would be prepared for anything life could throw at her. But I didn't get to go to my dream school. I didn't get in. A year later, I applied for a transfer and got in. I was overcome with happiness. But I didn't go. I was too afraid to change schools.

When I finished college, I dreamt of being married by the age of 23 (I didn't marry until I was 27), and then moving to either California or North Carolina. I soon found that while society encourages the dreams of children, the same support does not necessarily exist when you get older.

When I was 14 years old, I started dating my first boyfriend. He lived close by and we were culturally similar. At the time, that was pretty important to me. Two years into the relationship, I stopped being happy. Why didn't I just break up with him? I'll admit it, I was too afraid of change. Whenever I would talk about my unhappiness to people, I would hear a chorus of, "it's not that easy to find a Jewish guy," or "just stick it out, it will get better," or my personal favorite, "you've been together for so long, are you really going to just throw it all away?" Well, three years after that we were still together, and I was still unhappy. It wasn't until one day in college (five years into the relationship) that I truly realized I was ultimately doing myself, and him, a disservice by staying in this relationship. I finally ended it.

We learn a lot of things growing up. No, not the wonderful and hopeful crap our parents tell us when we are children. You know, like "You can be anything when you grow up." It's the stuff we hear when we are teenagers that really sets the tone for the rest of our lives. Phrases like "Toughen up," "It's not that bad" and "Just deal with it." These phrases become our mantras, and eventually, we stop trying to change things that make us unhappy. We simply learn to accept them.

The thing is, we stay when we're not happy. And it's not just relationships, it's everything. We stay with our job because we are waiting for tenure, or a raise, or we are "loyal" to a company that we know, deep down, isn't loyal to us. Or maybe, you have worked there for so long that the idea of finding a new job is terrifying, and so you stay and endure your misery.

You stay friends with a toxic person because you have known them since childhood. No matter how many times they hurt you, you cling to the memories of a time when they had your best interest at heart, and you desperately want to believe they will one day turn back into that person.

You stay in your hometown that you hate because it's scary to move. You wait to move, because you tell yourself "one day" you'll leave. And telling yourself this leaves you with comfort. You get to have your big dream of moving forward without any of the actual, scary, starting over part. You also wonder if this means you are running away. But here's the question, if you're not happy, and you're no longer growing, then why wouldn't you run away? Why wouldn't you move on? People often ask themselves, "I've done it this long, should I throw it all away?" My answer is yes! Throw it all away. If you hate something, why are you holding onto it so tightly? If your relationship is the emotional equivalent of an old winter coat you have had for five years with holes in it and stains on it, with the lining torn so much it just barely keeps you warm when it gets really bad out, would you keep it? Or would you buy a new coat?

I wondered all of these things myself. Would I be stuck here forever? When is the right time to make the change? I couldn't wait any longer. I had been talking about moving for more than ten years, and I decided that "someday" was today. Or two weeks from now, to be exact. Yeah, it's scary, but I wanted to feel scared. I wanted to feel something other than routine. So, I'm moving 400 miles away, and everyone thinks I'm crazy.