Don't Try To Change. Try To Grow.

Don't Try To Change. Try To Grow.

Change is a word that does imply that there needs to be some radical overhaul. Change implies some level of shame. Growth is a word that implies that the capacity to be better is always there, but needs to be awakened.

Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan

There's a famous Gail Sheehy quote that goes like this:

"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living."

But it's one that I pushed back against for reasons unknown to me at the time. Upon writing a different Odyssey article, and in my profound conversations with some friends: I realize that people don't change. They grow.

I fundamentally believe that there are elements to each person that makes them worthy and redeemable, no matter who they are. To insist on that person changing is a denial of seeing the best in that person, and not giving that person the benefit of the doubt. This last year, I've partially lived by the words that "you can't change people. They have to want to change themselves," but it's only now that I've rethought people's trajectories in life.

Change is a word that does imply that there needs to be some radical overhaul. Change implies some level of shame. Growth is a word that implies that the capacity to be better is always there, but needs to be awakened. Growth is often a step-by-step, gradual process.

I caught up with a friend I hadn't seen for a while, and she said that there was something different about me. I asked her if I'd changed, and she said no. My mannerisms and ways of doing things were still very similar. But she used the words "refined" and "matured." It took until now for that to settle in for me. I think back to the kid I was in elementary school, and I will always be that kid with all the personality traits I sought for a long time to purge myself of: I was angry, impatient, and thought I was better than everyone.

As much as I want to believe I'm different now, and as much as that might be true, the truth lies in lyrics of Eminem's "Not Afraid": "I had to go to that place to get to this one." We won't be who we are without the mistakes we make and what we learn from them. Often times, if there's someone who makes a decision or has a lifestyle choice I see as destructive, I don't try to intervene or tell them what to do. Usually, they need to step into the furnace themselves and take their own path, not one that I or anyone else wants to lay out for them.

Change is a denial of the person and the decisions you made in the past. Change means there's a fixed destination, and the journey will end once you reach that destination. Growth is the acceptance of those mistakes or those flaws as part of your path. To me, change represents an unsustainable way of forcing yourself to be different. Growth is more organic and patient, and growth accepts that the journey is never over, that we will never know or be good at everything.

I think of the term "character development," and how it's often so much more compelling to see characters become different gradually over the course of a season or multiple seasons of TV, rather than a sudden, unnatural shift. It's called development for a reason. I think of my favorite show, "The Wire," and how two of the best-developed characters of the show, Ellis Carver, and Roland Pryzbylewski, grow from incompetent, corrupt, and incredibly brutality-prone Baltimore police officers to well-respected members of the communities they serve. They do it using their past experiences and failures, not neglecting and turning away from them.

I think of Paul, the apostle who went from being "chief among sinners" and killing and persecuting Christians to writing most of the New Testament and spreading the word of the gospel. Rev. Tim Keller tweeted on July 28 that "Paul's conversion is a great reminder that no one is beyond the reach of Jesus." And for people who aren't religious, that can also mean that you are never unworthy, even at rock bottom.

The fact is all the pieces matter. We are who we are not only because of the good, but also equally as much the bad. To try to erase a part of yourself will always come back and bite, and will never last long-term. To accept all of it, the good and the bad, is to live with pride in your journey, to know that everything mattered in the final analysis of making you who you are today.

And what about being in relation to others? What about a significant other you may want to spend the rest of your life with? Author Tonia Allen Gould, the founder of the Finding Corte Magore Project, asked a woman celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary what the secret to her marriage was, and the secret was this: "You can't change each other; no sense in trying. People don't change, they grow. Might as well accept each other for who you both are – the person you were when you got married, and the person you've each become."

I'm mature enough to realize I don't want to change anymore, for the sake of myself, or for the sake of others. The past is all the chapters prior to now. Now, I want to just keep pressing forward, and keep on growing.

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I Might Have Aborted My Fetus When I Was 18, But Looking Back, I Saved A Child’s Life

It may have been one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't had done it.


Due to recent political strife happening in the world today, I have decided to write on a very touchy, difficult subject for me that only a handful of people truly know.

When I was 18 years old, I had an abortion.

I was fresh out of high school, and deferring college for a year or two — I wanted to get all of my immature fun out so I was prepared to focus and work in the future. I was going through my hardcore party stage, and I had a boyfriend at the time that truly was a work of art (I mean truly).

Needless to say, I was extremely misinformed on sex education, and I never really thought it could happen to me. I actually thought I was invincible to getting pregnant, and it never really registered to me that if I had unprotected sex, I could actually get pregnant (I was 18, I never said I was smart).

I remember being at my desk job and for weeks, I just felt so nauseous and overly tired. I was late for my period, but it never really registered to me something could be wrong besides just getting the flu — it was November, which is the peak of flu season.

The first person I told was my best friend, and she came with me to get three pregnancy tests at Target. The first one came negative, however, the second two came positive.

I truly believe this was when my anxiety disorder started because I haven't been the same ever since.

Growing up in a conservative, Catholic Italian household, teen pregnancy and especially abortion is 150% frowned upon. So when I went to Planned Parenthood and got the actual lab test done that came out positive, I was heartbroken.

I felt like I was stuck between two roads: Follow how I was raised and have the child, or terminate it and ultimately save myself AND the child from a hard future.

My boyfriend at the time and I were beyond not ready. That same week, I found out he had cheated on me with his ex and finances weren't looking so great, and I was starting to go through the hardest depression of my life. Because of our relationship, I had lost so many friends and family, that I was left to decide the fate of both myself and this fetus. I could barely take care of myself — I was drinking, overcoming drug addictions, slightly suicidal and living with a man who didn't love me.

As selfish as you may think this was, I terminated the fetus and had the abortion.

I knew that if I had the child, I would be continuing the cycle in which my family has created. My goal since I was young was to break the cycle and breakaway from the toxicity in how generations of children in my family were raised. If I had this child, I can assure you my life would be far from how it is now.

If I had carried to term, I would have had a six-year old, and God knows where I would've been.

Now, I am fulfilling my future by getting a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, having several student leadership roles, and looking into law schools for the future.

Although it still haunts me, and the thought of having another abortion truly upsets me, it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I get asked constantly "Do you think it's just to kill a valuable future of a child?" and my response to that is this:

It's in the hands of the woman. She is giving away her valuable future to an unwanted pregnancy, which then resentment could cause horror to both the child and the woman.

As horrible as it was for me in my personal experience, I would not be where I am today: a strong woman, who had overcome addiction, her partying stage, and ultimately got her life in order. If I would have had the child, I can assure you that I would have followed the footsteps of my own childhood, and the child would not have had an easy life.

Because of this, I saved both my life and the child's life.

And if you don't agree or you dislike this decision, tough stuff because this is my body, my decision, my choice — no one else.

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