Change is not a subtraction problem.

From a young age, we’re told not to change people. If someone smokes or drinks, lies or cheats, we can’t bring our own agenda into a relationship and expect to change them. A smoker is going to smoke, unless you’re really awesome at inspiring them to quit AND they wanted to quit beforehand but just maybe didn’t feel like the resources were there. You can’t go into that relationship hoping to make them one less potential cancer victim. Life just doesn’t worth that way.

We say change is bad. Change takes away all that we are, morphing us into someone unrecognizable, right?

We forget that change doesn’t mean ditching something and replacing it with something else. Change can mean amassing and growing and continually adding.

Think of the first snowfall of the year, how you run into the yard overcome with pure childlike bliss. It’s just a dusting, but still you flop onto your back, spreading your legs and arms. With just one snow angel, the entire front lawn’s green again. But if we take that snowball mentality, we can roll it around until it grows and becomes into something bigger and better. Start small, grow big.

As a kid, that’s sort of what our lives are like. We don’t have much to change, and when we do, we don’t have much to show for it. It’s really easy to flop back and forth between Before and After without much consequence.

But sometimes change is necessary. Sometimes, when we take who we are and we add who we could be, we create something new and great.

I spent the last year saying to my friends, “Why can’t I get back to that seventeen year old girl? She had nothing and yet she had everything. Why can’t I find her?

The answer is simple, and though I know it now, I keep secretly waiting for it to change. I keep thinking I’ll wake up and say, “You can go back. You can be her.”

You can’t. Because change is not backwards. It’s forward motion, always. Unless you’re a character in a Harry Potter novel or Michael J. Fox and you have a Delorean, you cannot transport yourself back in time. You have to pedal up the hill.

I wish I could find every person on this campus who has lost hope and give them some. Like a package to wrap up and hand to them. I wish I could find my nineteen-year-old self, grab her firmly by the shoulders, look her in the eyes, and tell her that she can be happy. That one guy cannot erase that seventeen-year-old girl locked up inside of her.

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What I know now is that you cannot forever lose yourself. You can misplace a small part of you, but you only have to look deeper to unearth it. And once you do, you build on that person you were to become a better version of yourself. Smooth over the rough edges, the scraped knees and the paper cuts, to prepare yourself for the next demand. The next big change.


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