God, I hate change. There is just something inside of me that clenches whenever the word is mentioned. I get this mental image of myself as a small child throwing myself face down on the carpet, beating my fists and screaming. And yet, there is an equal part of myself that firmly believes that change is good for me, that it is life-affirming and somehow some mystical change will propel my life forward, making it all so much better.
A New Year, in this respect, always sort of tickles me. We talk so much about change: throughout the year we seek to change policies, politics, societal attitudes, educational curriculums, equality laws, fantastical big advancements that could make huge strides for humanity around us, and yet, come January 1st, we all keep saying the same old things. Cliches about gym memberships, new diets, old diets, new ways to save money are often resolutions we made many years ago and yet still haven’t found a way to actually include in our regular lives. Because we really don’t change too much, in either our actions or our words. And that’s okay. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and some people thrive on change – living through one new adventure to the next, trying one craze after another, that is what works best. Perhaps in this circumstance, their change would be to just do one thing and not change. Patterns, no matter how they are shaped, are comfortable. Change is not.
The only thing I find comfort in is the cliche of change. I find hope in the changes we all keep striving for on a daily basis and I find camaraderie in the fresh turn of a New Year, a calendar we have constructed to make sense of our world, a return or sorts to a new beginning of yet another spin around the sun. There is something truly special in a universal recognition of the one day of the year signaling a change for the whole world, on a date that itself never changes. We may change how we look, how we act, how we speak and how we smell, but we shall consistently be a sum of our parts. We can change, but never too much.
However, I worry that our desire and drive for change can leave us feeling uninspired and dissatisfied with the lives we currently lead. That we may be holding ourselves back by not letting go of past selves, past loves, past habits that were as comfortable as your grandmother’s old armchair. That when we focus on what we don’t have yet (equal pay), or what we could lose (LGBTQ rights), we lose sight of the great gains we have made (same-sex marriage) and we don’t necessarily recognize the great achievements we have accomplished. The ideal would be to do both, to celebrate our accomplishments as stepping stones towards our almighty goals. But I wonder if that feels a little too farfetched at the moment because as a society, the journey ahead of us is told to be so treacherous, so full of land mines and probable calamity that it can make our great achievements seem small. Those landmark historical arguments we won, that at the time felt like we’d surmounted Everest, can feel like molehills in comparison. And that feeling of dissatisfaction, of reviewing something you were so proud of and realizing you’ve got to keep doing it every day, all day, can push you to the point of despair. If we’re dissatisfied personally, we’re often dissatisfied politically; but it’s very hard to fight either when you’re holding this hurt deep within your person. How do we fight every day, all day, if we don’t feel that our fight has been good enough? And we’re wrong; our fight has been fantastic, but it’s hard and that light at the end of the tunnel keeps dancing just a little bit further on.
I still struggle with change. I might charge into battle tomorrow morning demanding that men’s mental health needs to be championed, that consent from all parties irrespective of gender needs to be respected and that I consider it my basic human right to be able to walk home without feeling afraid – gigantic changes I want to happen in society and the way we educate ourselves, as well as others . Yet, the thought of replacing my car from one that’s currently hemorrhaging money to one that isn’t – a clear change that makes life better for me – makes me want to vomit. I like my routine, and I like what I know. I like my comfort zone, and whilst I want something better and bigger for society at large, the change required to make my comfort zone more comfortable in the long-run feels too big. I think it’s because it’s so personal, and it’s on me; changing my car isn’t a decision I can ask a focus group to make for me. I wonder too where this fits with self-care, and the aversions we can feel to self-care that are often based on self-worth, only we don’t wish to acknowledge it. At this point in my life, driving a very nice ‘old banger’ fits my identity. It’s my first car, the one I’ve driven down windy country lanes, since I was eighteen, from high school to university to postgrad. It’s carried me through three different cities and three different eras of my life. While everything else around me has changed, my car hasn’t. I wonder if I feel that maybe I don’t deserve that change yet; if I swap it for a younger, sportier model, something that feels slightly more grown-up and dependable, do I think I can also make that leap in my feelings of self-worth? Do I deserve this change? Have I earned it? Can I live up to it?
Change is a wonderful equalizer, if not for the strong feelings it seems to stir and the decisions it seems to enforce upon us. We must either stand against the tide or bow to it. Personally and politically, 2017 signifies a great deal of tension and shift. Personally, I will finally finish my seven-year university career in May. Politically, the UK should be exiting the EU this year and with the uncertainties of Scottish Parliament being willing to move with this, my Scottish home could feel compromised. My passport will become something of a museum relic, with the title of ‘European Union’ no longer valid. I can’t even begin to contemplate America’s next hundred days. The changes that will applied due to democracy at home and in my second home (my treasured academic home) will bring personal and political changes to everyone. All identities (and self-worth) may feel shifted, altered or even unhinged by this change.
When I first began working on this theme of change, it was December and, trying to convince myself that upgrading my car would be a good thing, I began to believe that change was the thing that would save the world – that a Trump Presidency and Brexit would be horrific, but that their “change” could be the catalyst to make us shout louder, to reassess what it is that we want and what exactly we’re fighting for. That the change could be the making of us. As I struggle to remember how the buttons differ in my new car, and consistently stall the start/stop transmission, I’m also aware of how much of a fight one has to make to transition. How it’s a constant, daily thought pattern that must be almost reprogrammed. And I think of the Women’s Marches all over the world and hope that we can fly our flags and wave our banners daily, no matter how tiring and frustrating it may feel.
As we enter 2017, uncertain of just how much the world could change in the next hundred minutes, never mind the next hundred days, I wonder how we might transition next.