“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
When I was 16-years-old I was kicked out of high school.
It’s not that my behavior was inappropriate. It’s not that I was failing my classes. It’s not that I wasn’t attending school.
It’s that we didn’t have any money to continue paying for my tuition.
About six months prior to my 16th birthday my mom was laid off from work. Being a single parent, the sudden loss of her job sent shock waves throughout our household. Who would pay for our food? How would we maintain our expenses? Would we lose our house?
Initially, she attempted to find work. But, rejection after rejection sent her into a deep depression and she began to withdrawal from the outside world.
After three months of non-payments, we lost heat and hot water. That was in December, in the midst of snow storms and unrelenting cold. To stay warm we used our kitchen stove to heat part of our small house.
But then we lost electricity.
Our house was barren of food. Our cupboards were empty. Our fridge deserted.
And finally, on my 16th birthday, rather than waking up to a brand new car with a massive bow on top of it, I was called into the principal’s office of the Catholic school I was attending.
“Have a seat, Antasha.” She said without any echo of affection or kindness.
“Your mother hasn’t paid tuition all year. Until she pays in full you are no longer allowed to attend classes or be on school property,” she continued unsympathetically.
A giant lump began to dominate the real estate in my throat, and my eyes welled with tears.
Internally, my mind was racing with a million questions:
“What does this mean?”
“Will I be a high school dropout?”
“Why are we poor?”
“Why is life so unfair?”
In an instant, my comfortable routine was ripped away from me and replaced by uncertainty.
After three weeks it became clear that my mom wasn’t going to be able to pay for my tuition. We were still without basic essentials and a foreclosure notice was looming on our front door. To make matters worse, I wasn’t able to transfer schools because my high school refused to release my transcripts until they were paid in full.
Depression, negative self-talk, and fear became my daily narratives. I felt doomed. I had become an overnight high school dropout — a statistic in the making.
“What’s the point?” I wondered sincerely.
And on that day when I was sure there was no hope left, my uncle came over with an idea.
“How about testing out of high school and starting college?” He said excitedly.
“Is that even possible?” I asked.
“Yes, I was able to find a loophole. There’s a public school a few towns away that is plagued with high dropout rates, and because of this, they allow their students to test for their GED once they turn 16. You can enroll without your transcripts and I can arrange for your transportation but you’ll have to attend classes as a student for a few weeks before you can test out.”
“Okay. I’ll do it.” I replied somewhat defeated.
“Once you test out we can start the college application process, and you’ll probably be able to attend college in the fall.” He said, assuringly.
So I took a leap of faith and the only real chance I had at taking control of my life. For two weeks I attended that public school, and I quickly realized how blessed and sheltered I had been in my life. Poverty, drugs, teenage pregnancy and violence were part of the everyday lives of the students in my new school, and what was shocking to me was normal to them.
My pity and depression turned into gratitude and determination. I knew I had a way out, and I had to follow it.
I ended up successfully testing out of high school and then going on to attend college that fall. After four years I graduated from college with honors and went on to attend a top graduate school where I also finished with honors.
And through that experience, which I now consider to be one of the biggest blessings of my life, I learned the value of education. I learned the value of change. I learned the value of uncertainty. And, I developed an appreciation for my life and my journey. I was able to take a step back and admire the bigger picture — the one I was blocking from coming to fruition when I was preoccupied by fear and negative thoughts.
As Socrates so eloquently stated, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Socrates was a wise man, but let’s be honest — that’s easier said than done right?
Well, not necessary. Not if we’re mentally prepared for change, even when it’s unanticipated and unexpected.
Here are 4 ways you can prepare yourself now:
1.) Ask Yourself “What Can I Learn From This?”
When I was kicked out of high school, my immediate thought was “why is this happening to me?” But, after going through the experience and coming out as a better, stronger and more grateful person, the lesson was obvious. And if I had shifted my perspective from the beginning and looked for the lesson, I would have saved myself from countless tears and spiraling depression.
So often when unexpected change occurs in our lives we assume life is against us. We say, “why me?” Rather than, “why not me?”
And when we do this, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Change is the only constant in life, and we have a choice — we can either fear it or embrace it and learn from it.
So the next time your life changes unexpectedly ask yourself, “what can I learn from this experience?”
Be open. Allow the universe to guide you to the answer and you will come to it without issue. Remember, there is a lesson available to us in every experience we have, and it’s up to us to recognize that lesson and understand why we needed to learn it.
2.) Be Flexible With Your Expectations
Setting goals, accomplishing dreams and planning for the present and future is a productive and important way to spend your time — but whatever your expectations are for your life, be flexible.
Things aren’t always going to go the way we want or expect them to, and when the unexpected does happen be adaptable.
It might rain on your wedding day. Perhaps your relationship doesn’t last. Or maybe you get fired from what you thought was your “dream job” only to later find there was a better opportunity awaiting you.
In my situation, I didn’t expect to get kicked out of high school. I wasn’t prepared to let change happen. And my resistance was only met with heartache, not progress. But, when I finally allowed myself to be open and flexible to a different path, that’s when my life started to move in a positive direction forward.
Whatever is happening, it’s happening to project you onto a new path that will bring about continued growth and opportunities. And the moment you realize this truth is the moment you’ll develop a greater understanding and appreciation for your life.
Fall in love with your journey — not your plans.
3.) Acknowledge Change Is Normal
During that period of my life, I remember feeling ashamed of who I was and what I was going through. My life felt volatile and unpredictable, and I resented that. But change is not some abnormal occurrence that only happens to the “unlucky,” instead, change happens to us all, and had I recognized that sooner I wouldn’t have felt so alone.
Beyond our humanity, something we all have in common is this theme of constant change. And, whether we recognize it or not, change is happening in all of our lives, all of the time.
Our bodies are changing. Our faces are changing. Our minds are changing. Our circumstances are changing.
Once we acknowledge and accept change as normal, we can let go of the paralyzing fear that comes with the perceived loss of control and truly enjoy the journey of our lives.
4.) Give Thanks To Change
In the absence of change, how would we grow? How would we learn? How would we develop a true appreciation for life?
If my life had happened differently, I wouldn’t be here today writing this blog. I wouldn’t have had the incredible life experiences that helped shaped me into the person I am today, and because of that, I will be forever grateful to change.
Change is life’s most beautiful blessing. It challenges us to be better, faster, smarter and more fulfilled. Change brings us new opportunities, new experiences and countless lessons to be learned.
When we allow and appreciate change, the universe throws us a paddle and suddenly we’re able to row with life’s currents rather than against them.
About Antasha Durbin: Antasha is a spiritual writer, life-long student of the universe, and psychic tarot card reader. Her website, cajspirituality.com, is dedicated to casualizing the spiritual experience and making it attainable for anyone, anywhere, anytime. Follow her for free, easy-to-digest and highly actionable advice on spirituality, mindfulness and empowered living.