“She’s going through a phase.”

I have always been self-conscious of people seeing me as a drifter from phase to phase. But recently, as I come to terms with myself, and who I am, I find myself asking “what’s wrong with phases?”

If we only make it to Phase One, we’re not developing and growing.

I think a lot of this comes down to my upbringing in a conservative, religious area where hard work, dedication, never-quitting, seeking “the truth”, and being consistent were regarded as the most admirable qualities. Something as simple as being into fashion and changing your style based on new trends garnered a lot of attention and questions. You start to develop a complex as people constantly note out loud the differences in your appearance or how you differ from them haha *uncomfortable laughter*

I used to dread a relative commenting on the fact that I changed my look, my interests, or college major even if they were benevolently asking about it. I dreaded being Phase Girl. And I dreaded the attention as I became more and more insecure about changing. 

It’s true. I have gone through many phases and many changes in my life. I have changed my mind a lot. The reaction I received from others must have affected me enough to cause this insecurity. Although I don’t remember many specific conversations, I once overheard a family member talking about something I was newly into: “Katie only cares about being cool...” implying I was chasing after this new interest for the sole purpose of being cool. It’s hard to be vulnerable in this way right now since I feel so far from that memory (and since it’s such an intimate memory to admit to strangers online), but it obviously affected me very strongly. To be seen this way by someone who is supposed to know me and accept me really hurt. After that point, I was self-conscious about all the decisions I made. I was self-conscious of change. Was I just trying to be cool? Was I just chasing something? What was I chasing?

I haven’t thought about this in a while, but it was an unhealthy obsession to be so focused on other people’s judgements of my motives. This isn’t the only area of my life where I place too much weight on the perceptions of others, but it’s an area I recently uncovered. You can have many things hiding away in your subconscious from other people (or yourself) who had no intent of affecting you in that way (…so, in other words, forgive).

Moving to Oregon, switching from wedding photography to fashion photography, leaving my childhood faith, changing my look, finding new music, moving to NYC, starting a podcast, beginning to write—in all those shifts, I tiny voice in the back of my head still clouded these otherwise exciting and normal events—does everyone discount all that I do because they see me as “just in a phase”… “just trying to be cool”?

When we first announced to our bible study leaders that we were moving away from our lifelong hometown to live in Portland, Oregon, their first response was: “you’ll be back.” These words cut me and reinforced everything I’ve been explaining above. I felt discounted.

When you focus on other people discounting your story and your path, you begin to discount it yourself. 

So what now? My old self is balled up, slouched down, and timidly saying, “you’re right.”

“I am fickle…I am only chasing my image…I am selfish…blah blah blah.”

My new self says, “change.” It’s time to reframe. 

I’m realizing that I am subconsciously and automatically seeing my decisions through the eyes of everyone else. I don’t need to view change negatively because deep down, I don’t actually believe change is negative. That belief was somehow lodged in my brain by other people, and I’m not them. I don’t have to hold onto the perceptions of other people and realizing this was half the battle. It’s time to see myself through my eyes alone.

Becoming aware is the key.

How about I try renaming my phases, and instead call them times of exploration, growing, experimenting, or trial and error?

The new words make all the difference to the brain. 

I get really into certain books, movies, music, diets, art forms, information and then I move on. It’s completely normal. We change and grow. We move on from things. Life is too short to pick one thing and do it until you die. And it’s not as if we really leave anything behind. It becomes a part of us. It compounds to form who we are in this moment. Every person deserves the space to change their mind.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t honor your commitments or give things a fair shot. But I am suggesting that you take the shame out of change.

Consistency and things like working at a job for 30 years may be admirable to some people. That’s okay; you can’t change what other people see as valuable. What I’ve had to learn, though, is to be confident in what I value, and furthermore not be too insecure or embarrassed to explain what I value.

I value change.

I don’t necessarily love change. It’s hard. It’s scary. But I value it. When it happens, I always look back and see growth. This is satisfying to me.

If I really think about it, I LOVE PHASES! I am a very passionate advocate for change—a passionate advocate for phases :) This passion was buried by my fears of what other people will think. If it was just up to me, I would advise you to change your career every few years, to move, to read a book you never thought you would like, to go to an event you never tried, to wear an outfit that is not your style, to try a new religion, to learn a new skill, to travel to a different country, to lurk on a weird subreddit, and more! I have seen so many benefits from trying different things (and I haven’t even tried that many things!).

The longer I live, the more I understand that I don’t understand anything. The more changes I make, the more I realize that there are so many different ways to live your life. And this makes me so skeptical of any person claiming to know “the truth.” It makes me skeptical of listening to a person who hasn’t changed in 30 years. 

I’m very conscious of the fact that what I’m currently interested in, what I enjoy writing about, and what I enjoy doing is only temporary. What’s working for me now won’t work for me forever. I’ll look back and see myself as a level down, but that’s okay. That’s how we grow. We’re not at the destination already and that’s something I want to continually remember.

I look back on blog posts I’ve written, and think, “That’s not me anymore.” I have already moved on. That was “a phase.” And I am becoming better at allowing my past self to exist imperfectly. She knew what she knew then and nothing more, so I can’t judge her. I can only judge “have I grown from her?”

Love your times of change and embrace them unapologetically. 

As I write this, I am already ready to release it. No more caring about this. It served me well, and I had to learn how to be comfortable with it. Goodbye to the girl who wrote this :) I love you.