InterviewWhat's New

Bike Stories: Change

Hi, I’m Brunella, a young international girl living in Groningen and curious to know the everyday nature of the inhabitants of this city. One thing connects all human beings, regardless of gender, color, class, or sexuality, and that is the need to question everything and seek comfortable answers–as irrational as it might be. So, that’s how this series called Bike Stories began: where I ride my bike, find strangers, and interview different people with a question essentially related to what makes them ordinary humans.

This week’s theme: Change. We always experience change. It is something that is all around us. The seasons change, politics change, and nowadays the TV models change more than the channels themselves. But, most importantly, us humans change a lot. Sometimes it’s a small change, like changing cereal brands or cutting your hair. Sometimes change is more significant, like switching jobs, breaking up with your boyfriend, or going to live in a new city. Sometimes change is forced upon us, like when there is a natural disaster or someone we love passes away. Change is ever-occurring and – funnily enough – ever-changing. We always experience change, yet everyone I’ve ever met has a different relationship to it.

Change can sometimes be scary to us. We like stability and predictability and sometimes, we like these more than change. I was pondering many important decisions this week – decisions that would create big changes in my life – so this question crossed my mind. I decided to ask two people whose answers I thought could help me discover my own. So, I met up with them for coffee and asked them the following question: What is one thing you wished you could change about yourself? Here I present their answers:

Person 1:

– I would change a lot of things about myself, in all honesty. I don’t think any of us are ever truly satisfied with ourselves, with how we look, with the type of people we are. There will be something to point out, a flaw or insecurity. I think, however, that if there is something I would put at the top of the list right now, among the other things I would like to change about myself, it would be my way of managing stress. 

What do you mean?

– Many times, I find myself stuck. I like being in control of things, and losing this power makes me lose control over myself as well. I feel like in the long run, I cope well with stress. The problems just seem too out of reach for me to start worrying about them. In the short-run though, when it concerns problems that I have to encounter in my everyday life, I feel like my world falls apart when I lose control.

I feel like many times my own stress paralyzes me, which just makes things worse since I usually get stressed out when I have to act or resolve a problem. But I freeze instead. My coping mechanism is often calling my mother. I often find myself in a position where I need the advice of someone who knows more than me, who knows enough about me, and who I can trust. My mother fills in all the boxes. I feel like what she says stays with me; it has always resonated deeply with every problem I’ve encountered. 

However, I don’t like depending on other people to deal with my stress. I wish I could cope with it myself. As I’ve grown older and the problem I am encountering grows in complexity as well, I realized that I cannot continue to rely on my mother to ease my stress. I wish to change this about myself. I wish to learn to be more self-reliant, to not let the little things affect me so much. Recently, I’ve been trying to distract myself from my stress. Running has helped me a lot with this. Usually, when things don’t turn out the way they were supposed to in my head, I get blocked. But running just makes me feel so fresh, so detached from all the problems building up in my head. It pulls me out of my block, and I like it.

Can you describe further this loss of control you keep feeling? What does it look like?

– At the moment when I lose control, I feel impotence. It feels like I can’t find the solution to the smallest problems. I don’t see any way out and I feel helpless. In the short run, small problems seem quite big and important and I cannot put them into perspective. I get very anxious and my attitude doesn’t help the situation. I am a very organized person and getting out of my comfort zone puts me into this mental block sometimes. You know the feeling of a pit in your stomach, when anxiety gets inside of you and just eats you from the inside, that’s what I feel. I hate putting myself in these situations. Over time, I have learned that life brings you obstacles and you must learn to overcome them through failure. But, in all honesty, I think I still have a long way to go in terms of managing my stress.

It’s a weird sensation you know, like losing a friend to time or distance. Many times the friends we make in high school matter a lot to us, and we make up this story in our heads that they’ll be there forever. But then time passes, and with people like us, distance comes in the way. When the friendship begins to die, I get stressed. It’s like part of me has accepted the fact that they are leaving my life and I reject that acceptance. I want to hold on to them, but they’re slipping out of my hand for reasons that go beyond me. These people took important spaces in my heart, and when they’re gone so subtly it feels like I cannot do anything to recover them. They leave a void behind and this makes me very anxious. I want to learn to let go easier. To let go of people, of control, of the ways in my head. I wish I was more free.

So, in a nutshell, what is one thing you would change about yourself?

– I want to learn not to make a big deal out of the small things. All the stress they cause on me takes up too much space in my head, space which I could use for better things, happier things. I wish I could understand that not everything is so important and that life is dynamic. I want to change my perspective. Sometimes you have to learn to dance alone, let go, and prioritize yourself. I wish I could learn this. The fact that you are blocked now does not mean that you will always stay there. I want to flow easily with life, I wish to change this someday.

Person 2:

– I always try to be very lenient with myself with these types of questions. Even when I screw up, I tell myself that in that particular situation at that particular moment, I did the best I could. However, if I had to pick something that I constantly regret and would like to change it is boldness. I am always careful with things, I think about things not just twice, but many times before actually taking action. I am quite a timid person and it takes me a lot of time to get to know someone and feel comfortable with them. I know it is not generally bad to be careful when it comes to making decisions in your life, I just wish I could learn to be bold and think a bit less before acting.

Why do you think you are this way?

–  I’ve always been a very careful person. Ever since I was little, my father has told me I am a bit of an overthinker. I really like to be in control and know what will happen, I don’t often like to be surprised by things. I try to make situations bigger in my head. By making them bigger, I am convinced that if I have figured out how to control an even bigger situation, then I will be able to control smaller things. It’s like I prepare myself for things before they even happen. This way I avoid unwanted surprises. 

I just feel very powerless when I’m not in control. It’s like when you do drugs you know. I don’t like that loss of control sometimes. It makes me feel very vulnerable. To those around me, to my surroundings, to whatever situation I might encounter without thinking beforehand. I just like being prepared. But I wish I learned to react differently to those times when I’m not. I think my life could be more fun and easy if I was bolder, or at least less stressed about the surprises of life. 

What do you think you would gain from being more bold?

– I don’t know. I just want to be brave enough to try new things. Like a random dance class or acting session. Or maybe, I wish I could approach and meet the people who are very different from me, those whom I would usually not hang out with. I just wish I could live more boldly and be open to more random experiences that could give me valuable life lessons. I hear it all the time with the people around me, what they live through, and the challenges they encounter. It sounds very scary but, at the same time, very interesting. I don’t want to keep regretting not taking chances. I want to live a life where I am open to experiencing as many things as possible, and right now I don’t think I am living that way. That’s what I want to have. I am usually sticking to the things I know and I want to change this for boldness.

So, in a nutshell, what is one thing you would change about yourself?

– I am still not sure if this is a personality trait or something that I could actively change, but if I could I would. Once I wanted to take this very challenging course, and I remember going over it in my head constantly. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it if I was going to like it, if it was worth it. I stressed so much about a course that I ended up taking and loving. I don’t want to be paralyzed by this fear any longer. I want to be bolder. I want to move my life forward towards this change.

Nothing is forever. Everything can change. Whether that be scary or exciting is up for us to interpret. After these two interviews – and after listening to Bowie’s song Changes – I decided that I would not be scared by change any more. Sometimes you need to take action, even if you don’t know what consequences these changes will bring. It is a challenge to be bold and careless, but again – what’s life without a challenge?