Navigating The Grief In Growth

It’s almost been a year since I’ve moved to New York City and there are still days I cannot believe this is my new life. Since graduating college, I’ve been in such a hyper-growth mindset. Through all the trials, I’ve built a life that I love to call my own. And though it’s nowhere near perfect, I pride myself in taking full responsibility for it, including the chaos and mess it can be. With graduating at the peak of the pandemic, I had time to really question who I was and the woman I wanted to become. And with the move to a completely new city where I didn’t know a single person, I had a blank canvas to intentionally fill with the vision I had. 

It inspires me how our generation is so focused on self-growth and self-love. However, I’ve found there’s rarely ever any conversation regarding the grief that comes alongside. In all the joy and pride with the person I’ve become, I still find myself longing for the person I was. Life had been moving so fast with all its changes, I never truly had the time to just sit with it. 

Around my half-year mark in the city, I was consumed by this feeling I couldn’t explain or understand how to cope with. I would run about my day — shop for groceries, meet up with new friends, take walks around the block — and it would hit me that this is my life now. I would be met with bliss knowing that I fulfilled a huge goal of mine, yet those moments were followed by a sinking feeling. I love the life I’ve created, but I had to leave behind many things in order for it to come to fruition. 

After months of constant moving, I allowed myself to just wholeheartedly sit with the feeling. I grieved the girl I used to be, the lives I did not live, the decisions I did not make, the homes I left behind, and the parts and people of my past that didn’t make it to my present. I grieved my old mindsets, habits, and routines. And, even the girl who was at her lowest, I felt for. 

Allowing myself the feeling of grief made more room for me to experience the present. I came to terms with knowing everything served its purpose in becoming who I am today. In growing, you leave behind layers that no matter how much no longer serves you, were still a huge part of you once. All the things you’ve moved past, it once mattered. All the people that have now become strangers again, you once cared for. And all the habits and routines you’ve replaced, they once embodied you. 

No goodbye is ever easy, whether it was welcomed or not. Good change is still change. And though I’m someone who loves growth, I still admittedly fear change. 

There is no shame in missing a past life. No matter how messy or unfulfilling it may have been, that life was still yours. And no matter how beautiful growth can be, it’s still so scary to grow up and realize there are moments you won’t get to experience again. 

The lake I frequented every Sunday has now become long walks through the streets of New York, drunk nights at frat parties are now iconic outings at the club, five minute walks from my best friends are now quarterly travel trips together, and the San Diego sun has now been replaced with falling snow. Though amazing new experiences are taking over my life, I still think about my past and how time seems to have moved so quickly. It’s okay to feel grief while enjoying new things. Change is complicated and the emotions that come alongside it are also such. 

The simple fact is, life is just continuous change. And there are still so many versions of ourselves we’re going to have to say goodbye to. Growth is beautiful, but so is grief. And there is absolute freedom in just allowing yourself to flow with its natural cycle.