The feeling before Change

by Ella, Civic Semester Participant

There’s a certain feeling, a certain ache that comes with Change. It hits at milestones: one week before, knowing that this is the last Monday that your life will exist the way it stands in front of you today. The moment you realize that you only have two more weekend days to sit with the version of yourself that exists on this warm Saturday afternoon. 24 hours before the Change, realizing you will only lay your head on this pillow once more, praying you dream of the exact day that you had—maybe you can extend this reality for eight hours more. The final wave hits you as you watch the landscape change beneath you from the sunlit plane window.

Six months ago, I would’ve told you that this feeling is dreadful, terrifying, sad. I would’ve asked you how it’s possible to leave so much of myself, so much of what I know to be true, just to spend my time rebuilding exactly what I have now. Friendships, comfort, love.

I spent my entire summer with a small clock counting down in the back pocket of my jean shorts, hearing it tick faintly through every good moment I had. “It ticks as I brush my teeth next to my sister, as I return home to a jumping dog, as I hear my mom laugh from the kitchen, as I step in the passenger seat of my best friend’s car,” I scribbled on June 23rd in my journal. I knew that when the ticking inevitably stopped, I’d be standing on the doorstep of my new life, the ‘feeling before Change’ filling my bones.

At the one week pre-Change milestone, I recall myself interrogating a close older friend and role model on how she could leave what she knew to travel how she did. “I cried when I left home, and I cried when I had to leave Australia,” she told me. Is that what this life is? I remember thinking.

Yes. Yes it is. Today, December 31st, 2023, I can confidently tell you that this feeling is no longer associated with fear, dread, sadness. In fact, I can tell you that if I could, I would bottle the feelings that flood my being in the moments before Change. What happened over the last six months to cause this? Well, Change.

I cried on the plane next to my dad on the way to my new campus home, uneasy of what was to come. The next day I stepped onto campus and tasted my first sip of freedom, filled with late nights and long days. I met people that I stayed in touch with after only 5 days together, people who looked me in the eyes and challenged what I thought I knew. People who had love for me without even knowing me. All of a sudden, it was time to leave this new “comfort” for something even scarier: living in Perú for three months.

I cried on the plane watching the Boston skyline leave my sight, unveiling a new level of the fear I thought I’d met before. But the next morning the sun showed me her face from behind the Andes and I tasted my first Peruvian mango and maybe this isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s actually really good. In 3 months, I was touched by hearts I didn’t know existed, discovered corners of the world I couldn’t create in my head, met parts of myself that I’d only ever seen in the people I loved.

Every moment that I’ve felt the dread, fear, sadness before leaving what I knew for something new, that ‘something new’ became the exact reality I needed. I now crave that ‘moments before Change’ feeling, I don’t dread it. Change has brought me freedom, friendship, family, lessons, adventure, and oh, so much love. I now know that I can trust this (not-so-) scary feeling, because the next morning I’ll wake up to a new version of myself that I’m so excited to meet. That’s what Change has taught me. Change is good! Change is necessary. I think that’s what that little feeling was trying to tell me all along.