My life broke open. In these past two years, it has been made anew.
First, thank God it did.
I can credit many things, but especially, two life-changing friendships.
They stood with me through every painstaking step of remaking a life.
Serving as a consistent sounding board, sharing podcasts, proofreading emails, trading ten-minute voice notes. In every deliberation and at each inflection point, they were there.
Their help was tremendous. But it’s not what made the biggest impact.
The things they didn’t even realize they were doing— their routines, habits, values— taught me even more. Being around them, seeing their ways of thinking, observing their reactions, meeting their friends, transformed me the most.
Without realizing it, I started to move the way I wanted to move.
Friends can transform your life. But I’ve come to know that it’s not just friendships that matter.
The people we work with, the communities we spend time in, the content we consume, the city we live in. All of it influences our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately, our actions. The environment we exist in either unlocks or hinders our potential.
It seems obvious, but it took me longer than I’d like to admit to learn this.
If I didn’t like who I was when I was drinking, I shouldn’t hang out with people who only liked drinking. If I wanted to end up with someone from Spain, I should probably go to Spain. If I wanted to be a writer, I should spend time around other writers.
My mistake was that I thought change was determined by effort. If only I had more willpower, I thought, I could muscle my way into being the person I wanted to become.
What I know now is that yes, effort is important. But environment is more so.
I lived in New York for four years and hardly wrote 1,000 words. Then, I moved to Spain and joined a writing group and wrote 40,000 words in six months.
I didn’t run more than twelve miles all of college, then I joined a running group and ran three marathons in two years.
I was single for three years and then I became friends with people in committed relationships. Now I’m in the happiest relationship of my life.
If you want to change your life, you have to change your environment.
One of my favorite James Clear quotes is: “If you want to build habits that last… join a group where the desired behavior is the normal behavior.”
Three years ago I looked at my life and asked: Am I moving towards the life I want?
The answer was no.
Slowly, I started to change my environment. I left a job that was focused on achievement and a city obsessed with accomplishment. I spent much more time alone.
Naturally, my relationships started to change. I got closer to people who lived the way I wanted to live (peacefully, calmly, creatively) and drifted away from others. Friendships evolved. Some ended.
These conversations were not fun. I cried a lot. I felt like I was losing myself. Was I a bad person? Was I selfish?
But there was a whisper in my gut that told me to stay on the path I had started. What I had been doing for years had not worked, I needed to try to live differently. That meant showing up in a different way than I had before.
I held tightly to the conviction that the people who knew my heart and knew where I needed to go would understand. If this season meant I needed to pull back or hibernate, they would get it.
Many of them did. It’s so beautiful today to be able to celebrate these changes with them, those who knew how desperately I wanted to live differently.
It has also given me empathy for my friends as they head into their seasons. Though I only know my experience, I can imagine that each person will at go through their own transformation of a similar magnitude.
So if it means they can show up differently, I understand. If they need to draw more closely to different environments or change the way they’ve been living, I know it’s not personal.
As Brianna West so succinctly puts it: Your new life is going to cost you your old one.
I think of the tight bonds I had with childhood best friends, former roommates, people I worked with, people I went on yoga retreats with. All people I vowed to never lose touch with, but that I ultimately did.
The weeks would go by and plans would be rescheduled and texts unanswered. It would shift from talking everyday to just a birthday text. Sometimes there’d be a confrontation, other times just a quiet fade out.
However it happened, I carried an immense guilt. I thought it was my responsibility to keep these friendships active and strong at all costs.
Becoming aware of my own seasons has helped understand that friendships have seasons too.
As I think of friendships that waned, I’m working to anchor into gratitude, not guilt. To see them as a bridge built, not burned. Together, we crossed over to where we needed to go.
Moving towards the life we want requires changing the life we have. What this means is that the way we show up won't stay the same. Relationships transforming is a natural part of living.
I can forgive myself for falling out of touch and empathize with people who drifted away. We were just in different seasons.
God, I am grateful for the people who stayed and the people who left, all the same.
I see now that each of us is doing the best we can to move towards the person we hope to become.
When we choose where we are and who we’re around, we are saying who we want to be.
As I choose where I am and what I do, I commit to who I want to become. I know this now.
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it must've been fate that i found your post at the right time, just when i received notice that i'm probably getting laid off. thing is, i am not sad over it. i've been wanting to quit since the beginning and i've been pretty bored and miserable at this job, but have always convinced myself to stay because i was afraid of changing my life and facing my fears.
but i think this is my sign (getting fired, and your post) that i really need to confront my fears and create the life i really want, even though it is very uncomfortable and scary to me, especially since i'm a very passive person. most of my life, i just did whatever my parents told me even though i was miserable, since i was scared to take the risk of following my own path. obviously that has costed me a lot of time and pain.
anyway, apologies for the rant, but just wanted to say thank you for this post.
Thank you so much for putting into words something that I've been feeling the past 4 years. For the longest time I was afraid of leaving my old life behind...but i realize i haven't even started making a dent into build my new life and the life i want to live because i've been too afraid of leaving my current life. I realized it's may things I've been scared of-- leaving my parents behind, best friends, my dog (probably because she's like a sibling to me since i never had human siblings), and of course, friendships ending and losing people in my life. I don't now how I'm going to overcome this fear, but I also know that if i don't start trying to make my dream life a reality, it will probably be the biggest regret of my 20s.