Why do we think drastic change will fix everything?
Have you ever noticed how, when at a particularly challenging or low point in your life, the idea of sacking it all in and moving country, changing careers or getting a new haircut seems so appealing?
Where does that belief come from that, when everything else in our lives is falling apart, the most logical route to happiness is to bring in even more upheaval and colossal change? To look at it that way, makes it seem ridiculous. But in the throes of desperation to make something more of our lives, drastic change can seem so ridiculously appealing.
Maybe your relationship just ended, or you’re struggling for money, or you hate your job. Or maybe you lost your job, like me. Nearly three months ago I was turfed out of my first ever ‘proper job’ that was supposed to be the first rung of my career ladder. To be fair, it still was and is, but it was supposed to springboard me towards more fantastic opportunities, not build me up for a year only to kick me right back down to where I started.
Nevertheless, here I am, sat at home every day, writing out job application after job application, feature pitch after feature pitch, for them all to eventually be rejected. You get to a point where you start to think, maybe this isn’t the best path, maybe I should be exploring different options. They’re never logical options though. I’m not taking about trying a different cover letter template or widening my job search. I’m talking about the wild dreaming options, like moving country or starting in a whole new career altogether.
Now, if I feel like being made redundant has put me back to where I was twelve months ago, changing location or career would put me back to roughly where I was just before I started university six whole years ago. And still, as I sit staring at another blank Word document (who am I kidding, it’s Pages - as if I can afford Microsoft Office), desperately trying to find the magic combination of words that will make an employer consider taking a chance on me and offering me sixty minutes of their time to interview with them, I can’t help my mind wandering to thoughts of sacking it all in and starting in something totally new and different. Maybe I’ll be a potter? Or train as a yoga teacher? And despite it not even being financially possible and would heavily rely on the initial problem of getting a job solved first, in my wandering mind it seems perfectly reasonable that moving to a new city would fix all my problems. Maybe Paris or New York or Lisbon will appreciate my talents better than London does?
When I dare myself to think realistically about these options, I realise there are countless reasons I don’t want to move country and a multitude of barriers stopping me from just starting anew career-wise. Nevertheless, I find it interesting, this idea of ‘big change = success/happiness/problem solved’ that so many of us subscribe to.
Because I don’t think I’m alone in this fantastical daydream. Even if your life is going pretty well, everyone likes to indulge in a little dreaming every now and then. The grass is always greener on the other side, as they say. Sometimes you don’t even need to know what the change would be, but just to fantasise about the idea of something in your life being hugely different can sometimes be enough to satiate those feelings of curiosity. I think it’s the ‘What if?’ that we are so drawn to; those Sliding Doors moments that we find so fascinating and that make such great tales.
However, while I have no plans to upheave my whole life in an attempt to find my true purpose, I think I may indulge just slightly in the concept of change. Change can be scary, but dipping a toe in can be a safe way to experience that rush of new and exciting and ‘what if’ without the expense of plane tickets or entire degree costs or the general disruption to your entire life. I’m talking about that oh so millennial thing: the side hustle. You know, the idea of monetising a hobby. For me, it would be something else productive to do with my time besides the soul destroying task of filling out job applications. And, bonus point, it could earn me some extra pennies. I’d probably go for something physical or tangible that doesn’t require hours spent tapping away at a keyboard.
For others, it could simply just be a hobby. It doesn’t have to make you money, it just has to bring you joy. Not only is it a way to experience the greener grass on the other side, it’s an opportunity to indulge in fantasising about ditching your desk job to become a flower arranger or a tapestry weaver or a horticulturist - whatever floats your boat! - without having to make that life altering commitment. And then maybe we’ll dream a little less about throwing it all in to live in the mountains with a herd of goats. No? Just me?