Fear of Change

I’m flying to NYC in a few hours to spend most of December there, continuing my ongoing love affair with the city. As much as the prospect excites me, I’m also a nervous wreck. I’m scared of flying, always have been, and, when I’m honest with myself, I’m also slightly uncomfortable leaving my steady and well-known surroundings here in Munich behind. Mind you: This is coming from someone who has spent most of last year on the road, constantly changing countries, cities and airbnbs. You would think I am accustomed to this by now, but no: Not even two months back at your old waterhole, and the oh so familiar fear of change starts to creep back in.

This is a real problem for most people, but I’m an especially extreme case in point. As long as I can think back, I’ve been afraid of change. I remember not going on a four week youth camp with my best friend as a teenager, to freaking FLORIDA, simply because I was too afraid of the change. I mean, Florida. The beach. No parents. Your best friend at your side. Really?

Unfortunately, this is just one of many personal examples. Another highlight: I also remember breaking up with my first real girlfriend of many years and being pretty much skewed for the next year straight. I felt as bad as I ever have in my life; I was at a complete low point. But today I cannot help but wonder: Was I really missing her? Or was I just missing the safe life and the emotional stability? I suspect the latter.

Strangely enough, being very aware of my condition (people constantly pointing it out to me might have had something to do with it…), has also helped me to battle it. Over the years, I have systematically exposed myself to more and more change, to the point where even normal people might get frightened. I lived abroad for 2 years. I started a business. I tried alternative relationship models. I sold my business. I sold all of my belongings. I went location independent. I started to write, hoping someday to support myself from it. And so on.

So my fear of change has improved, significantly. When I look around me though, I see the exact opposite tendency playing out. Most of my friends who used to embrace change, actively seek it out even, are starting to get stuck. And it’s not just the external factors, like them trying to further their career or start a family, because “that’s what you do, right?” These things are just the results, the traps they fell eventually into, when they were ripe for it. But it happened much earlier, and it happened over time. Their adventurous spirit became grounded, so to speak. Just a little more with each year going by; it was hard to notice at first. But constant dripping wears away the stone.

So I talk to people I know and they get very upset when you hint at this. Deep down they sense they are growing more and more afraid of change, but who likes to admit this to him- or herself? Instead, you start to construct this complicated net of justifications as to why you are going along with it all: You need financial stability, of course. You don’t want to risk putting off your current partner. You don’t want to look like a dropout to all of your friends, who are all doing the picket fence thing.

However, no matter how well you can backwards rationalize: It’s just a house of cards, and at the core of it is fear, fearing change as you grow older.

This being a self-development blog, I should now give some kind of positive, encouraging advice, maybe a bullet list of “10 Ways to Overcome Fear of Change.” Maybe meditate some. Maybe “be more present and let go of past worries.” I’m really not in the mood for it, though. All I can say is what I regularly tell myself: Acknowledge the fear all you want, but eventually, grow a pair. Contemplation mode will get you nowhere, but desensitizing yourself will. But that only happens through ACTION. Stop acting like a delicate flower, seek out change, and gradually learn to withstand the initial pain. Then, enjoy the immense growth that goes with it. That’s it; there is nothing more to it.

Having said that, I’m still not looking forward to this damn flight tomorrow… But I AM looking forward to meeting some amazing friends in NYC. I AM looking forward to the liveliness of Union Square, the coolness of SoHo, the art scene of Brooklyn and even the hustle and bustle of Times Square. I am looking forward to experiencing new things I can’t experience on the well-worn paths to my usual water hole.

Talk to you soon (hopefully).