Filling Your Niche
baby steps

Baby steps toward change

My littlest niece has spent most of the last few months learning to walk. At first, she was just excited to be upright like a real human, but it was more about the novelty than about actually moving forward. Then she might take a few steps, sometimes, but she always chose crawling if she wanted to get somewhere fast.  As an alternative, she developed this goofy hybrid where she’d sort of kneel and then propel herself forward using one leg like an oar, neither walking nor crawling.

These days, though, she’s all about walking. She never crawls.

Watching her sure-footedness reminds me that any  transition from crawling to walking isn’t immediate; it’s a process. Even after figuring out how to take firm, solid steps, we revert to crawling because it’s what we know. And because old habits seem faster and easier.

This should come as no surprise to any of us. I mean, hello: change is hard. Stupidly, mind-numbingly hard. It’s hard even after you’ve figured out how the hell to stand on your own two feet, even after learning to lift one foot and then the other. There’s a ton of tumbles and spills and backpedaling and strangers glaring at you because they’re sure you must be beating your toddler based on the inevitable scrapes and bruises and  you can’t carry a disclaimer signboard  that says “I do not harm my daughter. It’s just that she’s learning to walk and she’s a little unsteady still” as much as you might want to.

But the coolest thing happens with these baby steps. They add up. All that seemingly interminable effort that’s only exhausting you one day– becomes purposeful strides the next. Just like that.

Only it’s not just like that. Change takes lots and lots of false starts and practice and finding your balance then losing it and then finding it again and then really losing it and then wobbling back to your feet and moving forward a little and sitting down and resting and then getting up again. For as long as it takes, until you one day realize  you’re walking. You’ve been walking. Maybe for a while now. Even if your path has been a little… well, wandery.

Even the tiniest, least certain, most timid steps move you forward. There are no small victories when it comes to changing your life. And if your steps are roundabout and backtracking, well, at least you’re on your feet. No one goes in the right direction the first time, just like no one evolves from crawling to walking in one fell swoop. If you feel too unsteady to leap, take baby steps. They’ll  get you there just the same.

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Maarit • 04/15/2014

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