Coming to terms with my fear of change

Anna Jerolimov

I am a collage of all the people I’ve met before and all that I’ve held important to me in the past, and that is something that will never change. Photo | Adi Shukla

I’ve always been afraid of growing up. I cry on my birthday every year (a tradition that began when I turned 10 and realized that from then on, my age would always be double digits). I’ve been counting down the months until graduation since the start of eighth grade — but with apprehension, not excitement. For me, time hasn’t really flown by, because I’ve always been acutely aware of its passing. Quite frankly, I’m terrified of change.

I think this fear of change stems from my fear of forgetting: both forgetting others and being forgotten myself. I have already known and forgotten so many people throughout my life. People I once considered close friends have become strangers, their once-important presence in my life reduced to being someone I now think about fleetingly, perhaps whenever I see them post on social media. Considering that I don’t have much of a social media presence myself, I wonder how often they think about me. I wonder if they ever do at all.

Maybe that’s why the thought of college is so daunting. It seems like everyone is eager to leave except me. For me, in comparison to the looming challenge of college, high school, especially senior year, has been easy. Comfortable. Familiar. I’ve started and ended high school with the same friends and I’ve become a leader in the same extracurriculars that I joined at the beginning of freshman year. I thrive on familiarity, but next year, I’ll have to uproot my familiar life to go to a place where nothing is the same­ — not the location, not the people, not even the weather. Everything is going to be different, and on top of that, I’m afraid of forgetting everyone I’ve ever known. It’s terrifying. Unfathomable, even.

But, in the midst of all this uncertainty-driven anxiety, there’s one thought that gives me comfort. It comes from a Tumblr post I read in fifth grade. The idea: that we are the products of the people we meet. Our preferences, our quirks, our idiosyncrasies. Consciously or subconsciously, we adopt the traits of the people we love as our own. In the words of that Tumblr post, we are the “mosaics of everyone we’ve ever loved, even for a heartbeat.”

I know that this holds true for me. In kindergarten, I copied the way my friend held her pencil because I wanted to be more like her, and I still write that way. I bring warm water to school regardless of the weather, because my mom always drinks warm water. Mentally, I refer to hand sanitizer as “hanitizer” because that’s how my sister pronounced it when she was four. I discovered the band that topped my Spotify Wrapped for three consecutive years when my eighth grade English teacher had us analyze a song from them in class one day. And I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to simply use an Oxford comma again without reminiscing about editing them out of stories during my time as a journalist on El Estoque.

Next year, when I’m halfway across the country and two thousand miles away from all the people I’ve ever known and loved, when I’m intensely homesick and wishing I was still a little kid, I’ll reflect on all the parts of me that were originally from other people. I’ll sip my warm water, cleanse my hands with “hanitizer” and reminisce about memories in room A111. In those moments, I will know that I will never forget the people I’ve loved and they will never forget me, because we will carry parts of each other wherever we go.

I don’t have to be afraid of growing up, of getting older or my life changing. Change is a natural — necessary — part of life. My life will inevitably change next year. I’ll meet new people, and some of the people I’m close to now will fade away into memory. But I’ll never truly lose them. Because I will always be part of them, and they will always be part of me. 

I am a collage of all the people I’ve met before and all that I’ve held important to me in the past, and that is something that will never change.