Ch-ch-changes: It's okay to change your mind

February 23 2015 | Guest post by Aurora
Brains!
By: Hey Paul Studios – CC BY 2.0

There are certain times in your life when you think you have your shit all figured out. You make a decision and, not knowing how the future will mold and shape and affect you, you think that you’ll keep to that decision for the rest of your life.

Vegan or vegetarian but have experienced cravings for red meat due to being pregnant? Want nine kids but don’t realize that as you get older, your deteriorating relationship with your family will influence your desire for a large brood? Think you want to keep your last name forever but then you realize you’re excited to have a change in identity due to marriage? Things change. Life happens. And just because you told your best friend when you were both thirteen that you wouldn’t want to adopt a teenager from foster care doesn’t mean that once you’re an adult you can't do a 180 and decide that you’d prefer to adopt a teenager rather than a younger child.

Newsflash: People and choices change. It happens.

This is something I’ve come to terms recently, since I grew up in a small town and still keep in touch with friends I’ve known for fifteen to twenty years. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that when someone mentions something offhand, they’re going to stick to it for the rest of their lives. What’s worse, if you know someone long enough — or reconnect after a large chunk of time — you may assume that they copped out, weren’t sticking to their guns, or everyone’s personal favorite: the “you’ll seeeeeeeee” monger-ers were right, and you simply didn’t know that it would be way too hard to commit to your decision at the time. However, we tend to forget that people are allowed to change their minds.

Oftentimes, we fear admitting that we’ve changed our minds because very few people want to hear “I was RIGHT and you were WRONG.” But let’s say that was the case. Let’s say that, despite your best intentions, everyone who told you that you’d end up doing something different than what you committed to ended up predicting your future correctly. It’s less of an issue of “I told you so” and more a sign that you experienced life. Ever hear of a politician who switched parties and lost their credibility as a result? Why is that such a bad thing? Since when are we not allowed to be swayed by compelling arguments?

Try to focus less on the fear monger-ers and their insistence that they know what’s best for you better than you do, and accept the fact that YOU made the best decision that you could at the time, regardless of what the best decision would have been five or ten years earlier.

Things are different now then they were ten years ago — I’m different. And it took a lot of self-reflection to come to terms with changing my mind. I had to give myself permission to do that, as crazy as that sounds. I didn’t want the smug looks from people who told me that they knew what would work for me and I didn’t. And sometimes, when you hang out in the offbeat crowd and develop “special snowflake” syndrome, you tend to want to go against the grain simply so that you’re appropriately non-conforming. One of the things I’ve learned from the Offbeat Empire is that you need to make the decision that is best for you, regardless of whether or not it’s an on-beat or an offbeat one.

So what if you change your mind? That doesn’t make you weak or wishy-washy. What it does mean is that you’re a thoughtful, independent person. You took the time to figure out what would work for you, even if what would work for you is different depending on your stage in life. And you know what? That’s okay.

Living a life of personal accountability and authenticity means that you’re putting effort into your decisions, and there’s an ebb and flow that comes with that. Being true to yourself means being true to your whole self — no matter how or why you change. Change is okay. Change happens. Own it and ignore the nay-sayers and the fear monger-ers.

You are not static, and you are not the same person you were in middle school, or high school, or even a few years ago. And thank goodness for that, because how boring would that be?

  1. Wow, I'm not sure this could have come at a better time for me.
    I've been struggling internally for the last few years with the knowledge that I am going to go through life completely ignoring the fact that I earned a college degree. I dual majored in creative writing and music, and while I deeply love both of those, I've realized that my passion and my future lies in baking, and I'm actually going to open a cafe style bakery in about a year when I move back home to Florida.
    And through all of my excitement and planning and late nights and buying vintage sinks on ebay, I have this niggling worry–what if this is something I change my mind about too? When I entered college, I was going to be a geneticist. It's like I've steadily progressed into harder and harder jobs to be successful at on purpose.
    And it's scary. And there's a huge failure rate in opening any sort of food business. But… It feels right. And I really have to believe that that won't change.

    5 agree
    • This is part of the reason I dropped out of college and am unsure of going back – I have *no idea* what I would get a degree in or what I would like to do outside of being a housewife and, hopefully, stay at home mom. I know a lot of people who went to school for one thing and ended up doing something completely different, or getting another degree entirely, or even getting their bachelor's and masters in two completely different fields. My uncle and dad both went back to school in their 50's/60's – that's how long it took for them to figure our their game plan after they dropped out!

      3 agree
      • I am one of those people who ended up doing something completely different than their major, but that's because I stubbornly refused to listen to my gut about changing my major around my sophomore year just because I wanted to "get it all over with." Well, I found out the extremely hard way that my bachelor's degree is less than marketable in today's working world, and I will most likely have to go back to school to get a master's in the kind of work I'm doing right now.

        4 agree
        • Wow.
          I could have wrote this.
          Right down to the stubbornly refusing to listen to my gut to 'get it all over with'.
          And now I'm about to take my first scary steps on an entirely new path, unsure about the marketability, but certain that I'd love to make money doing it.

          2 agree
      • I'm one of those stories, and I'm only 27!
        I got a BA in Religious Studies, but as I was rounding the corner to graduation, realized that wasn't super useful (I *loved* it though). After a month off from school and a cross-country move, I did a 15-month professional program and got an AA in Fashion Design since I had been sewing since I was 10, and I worked on the production side of apparel for a few years before realizing I hated that and wanted to do something that made more of a difference in the world. So I quit everything- job, apartment, relationship- and wandered between friends' and parents' couches for a while, then worked on a couple of organic farms through WWOOF. While at the second farm, which is a whole 'nother amazing "how I found myself" story, I realized I wanted to be a librarian (I think), so now I'm knee-deep in a master's program for that. At this point, I've changed my mind and bounced back so many times that I assume I will change again, but I know I can handle it. And in the meantime, I try to make sure I always love what I do!

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    • Same, I studied zoology at university and whilst I love science and animals I'm not sure if I ever want to work in that field. I currently work for a train company – I'm pretty happy and am looking at getting into weddings planning.
      I always thought 'event planner' was a made up job for rich people…

      2 agree
  2. This post is precious, both for people like us with offbeat life choices and people around us, who think that a decision taken at some point in time will stick forever. We just make the best decisions for our current stage of life, and as our life evolves, so will our decisions.

    4 agree
  3. In my life, I try to be very cognizant of the fact that my mind may change as I experience life, and I try not to speak in absolutes. That doesn't mean that there haven't been times, or won't continue to be times, when I thought I was certain and changed my mind. But I try to be aware that I'm only 24, and things/people change sometimes. So instead of saying "I only want one child, I could never imagine having multiple kids" I say, "I'm pretty positive right now that I only want one, but I understand that some people decide they want another after the first." That's just me, though. Definitely not saying everyone needs to temper every opinion they have about their lives. I just find it to be more true to myself, and that it more easily allows me to be flexible if my mind does change.

    3 agree
    • This is a great idea! It can take some effort to change thinking patterns/speaking patterns, but it's definitely worth it when you're able to be more cognizant of what is coming out of your mouth or is in your head.

  4. Great post. I know I'm guilty of making assumptions that other people will stick to whatever convictions they had when they were young (or even just offhand comments!) and then being surprised when they end up doing something totally different. But people change, and change just means that you're learning about yourself and experiencing new things.

    I think we tend to romanticize the people who end up in the career they dreamed about when they were 5 years old, or who stay married to their high school sweetheart for 60 years…and even when those are the best choices for those individual people, it's not necessarily realistic to expect or demand for yourself.

    8 agree
  5. Thanks for this article! I can definitely relate. When I was a kid I said I would never dye my hair (my aunt likes to remind me of this all the time) but ever since my freshman year I really have never stopped dying my hair. It's currently henna red. I said I wouldn't get visible tattoos… that went right out the window. I said I would become a high school teacher and that I could never see myself being an artist. Yup, guess what I do now. I said I would never get married and we're going on 5 years. The one I'm currently struggling with is that I always thought I'd have kids, but now I'm about to turn 32 and am still not feeling completely ready. All the things I enjoy, like a quiet clean house, going out to eat, spontaneous plans, sleeping in, painting for hours… all those things would disappear. So now I'm wondering if this is something I've changed my mind about and I find it stressful.

    3 agree
  6. I changed my mind about when to start our own little family – well, "compromised" may be a better word to use for my situation. I was really wanting to start trying to conceive on my wedding night, but due to the aftermath of wedding stress and trying to work out our finances, we've decided to wait about a year or so.

    With that said, I do keep wondering if I'll regret this decision. After all, I would love to at least have my first child before I turn 30 (I'll be 25 in a couple of weeks from now.). Also, my hubby recently told me that he would like to be a dad by the time he hits 40 (He just turned 33 this year.). Because of that, a big part of me feels like I am taking away the opportunity to be a parent from him. Plus, I am just so freaking scared that we won't be able to have children even if we were to start trying as soon as next year.

    A small comfort to me is the fact that one of my doctors said that he thinks I shouldn't have too many problems having children, but sometimes I wonder if he could possibly be wrong about me.

    So we continue to wait until our finances become less stressful to handle while battling crazy baby fever. I just don't want to wait until it's too late for us . . .

    2 agree
  7. Best. Post. Ever.

    I hate the "you'll seeeeeeeeee" crowd, as if people aren't allowed to change their minds, or believe different things at different stages of their lives. I get scared sometimes that as I've gotten older (I'm now 32), I've gotten less convinced that I want children while everyone around me is steadily increasing the pressure. It's weird to change your mind about things you've been convinced about your whole life, but perfectly within everyone's rights!

    Thank you for reminding us we have permission to make the best choices for us.

    5 agree
  8. Whatever age we are, we set expectations about who we'll be in the future, but we can't imagine the life events that will come along and force us to adapt.

    I thought divorce was just for people who didn't try hard enough, I said many times as a kid "Divorce isn't in my vocabulary." Guess who's divorced and really happy about it? It took time and lots of emotional struggle to come to terms with that new part of my identity though. I thought I'd be perfectly happy being a stay at home mom, but I'm terrible at being home alone all day and I'm pretty sure I want a career instead of kids (who knows!?).

    I worry a little bit about being able to adapt to changes in the future. I have a relative who is very vocal about the support she gave during the civil rights movement, but now stands in the way of same sex marriage and can't see the parallels. How do I make sure that I stay flexible in the future?

    1 agrees
  9. Oh man, I hate the "You'll seeeeeee" people. One thing I am certain about and have been saying since I was 12 (I'm 27 now and engaged) is that I will never have biological children. The whole idea has always felt very wrong to me, on a visceral level that is very difficult to describe, but probably has to do with the fact that I identify as non-gendered. I think it's insulting when people pull the "you'll see" or "you'll change your mind" when it comes to something as personal as that. In general, I think we would all have fewer hangups about changing our minds if people didn't try to predict/or force their version of the future on others. By not getting all Judgey McJudgeyPants about each other's current decisions and plans for the future, we would give everyone so much more flexibility and peace of mind for decision-making.

    2 agree
    • Omigosh, yes! If only people weren't so hell-bent on telling us that we'd change our minds every time we make an offbeat (or sometimes onbeat!) decision! Why do people feel the need to do that?

  10. Thank you! I was avoiding reading this post but I'm so happy I did. It is extremely relevant to my internal voice and brings light to my constant rumination about life changes right now! Spot on!

  11. I used to read a ton of Enid Blyton books as a kid – all those boarding school ones – and of course they're jam packed with 'messages'. The one that really stuck with me, though, was a side plot about a girl who was absolutely adamant she would hate boarding school, and would stick it out a term because her parents forced her, then leave. And, of course, she came around to loving boarding school (because in those books it's always a lovely place with midnight feasts and no bullying whatsoever), but because she self-defined as a 'strong' person she thought admitting she'd changed her mind would be worse than leaving all her friends behind. Anyway, the point of the narrative was that admitting you had changed took a stronger person than sticking to a course you knew was no longer right for you.

    I took that to heart as a kid, but I've always been a bit suspicious that you only see messages like that in books squarely targeted at girls. 'Boys' books are usually about sticking to your guns and being proved right in the end. Not that sticking by your convictions is a bad message, but it really shocks me as an adult how many people I know still refuse to change their mind about something because they're worried it'll make them look weak. It makes me sad to see people who put their pride before their happiness, and maybe if society was a little less judgemental about change life would be easier.

  12. Yes. I love this post. I think the thing I've changed my mind the most about was having biological children. In high school I always said that I'd *maybe* adopt one kid, and getting pregnant and giving birth were totally out of the question because it just seemed soooo unpleasant. And then I went to college and met the man of my dreams. I slowly changed my mind, and now we have a young child together. My high school self was right, of course; pregnancy and childbirth ARE unpleasant, and I am in no hurry to do it all over a second time. Maybe I'll never be ready, but either way I am perfectly content with my life-changing mind-change choice.

    1 agrees

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