Calvin & Hobbes formed a vital part (if not the whole) of my childhood. And, “Day by day, nothing changes. But pretty soon… everything’s different” became both the imprinted life-rule I began to revere as well as the predominant reason why the very thought of change made (and still makes) me cringe a little.
Change has always been quite complicated.
In one sense, it is the universal solution for progress, saving the planet, fighting social issues and well, almost every other problem one can imagine. Yet in the personal, individualistic front, while most of us might dislike a few traits among our friends or family and wish they changed some of their ways, we more or less want them to ‘stay the same’; We want us all to change, yet remain the same person.
The latter, paradoxical element of change that always got to me: you want people to change, but then again, you don’t.
When I was little, I understood that everyone is different, and appreciated that fact. I liked looking around, while riding the bus to school or sitting on a chair in the mall, and noticing how some people were tall, some people had admirable laughs, a few wore glasses, some loved smiling, some people had curly hair…. I loved how everyone was unique. But, while I loved how they were different to me, I couldn’t accept the fact they could be or become different to themselves. That’s the change I didn’t like.
I was so obsessed with my dislike for change, and that one constant rule applied to almost everything in my life, be it existential truths or trivial personality traits. I was under the intransigent impression that I had to be the same person forever, I had to have the same morals, why, I even thought that I had to always have the same favorite color.
I always believed that there was a trade-off between change and being genuine. I thought that getting a new hairstyle or aspiring something else, means that you aren’t being true to your self. It seems absurd now, but the truth was, I could never understand how changing two or three things about yourself doesn’t change who you are, until a few years ago.
I moved to India from America when I was 10, and when I first joined my new school, I was quiet. I had always been the shy, sensitive book worm that never spoke unless asked to, was fearful of almost everything and always sat in a corner. At field trips and parties, I would resist dancing and singing in front of others and I wouldn’t be well as daring.
After a year or two though, I wanted to. I wanted to let my hair loose. I wanted to dance across the floor without being shy and I wanted to tell people what I thought out loud.
But when I wanted to say something, I would stop myself. I would come to the conclusion that since I was a ‘quiet’ person, I should stay true to that.
That’s what got me in a fix… these identity markers which I created to define myself started to restrict me. They kept me captive to my own dreams. So, I started to listen to my inner self. I started to do what felt as instinct, without thinking about the rules I made. And, I magically started finding myself, well for starters, different. I started to volunteer for almost anything and everything in school, I would stand for elections, I started to become the person who introduces herself, and I wasn’t afraid of voicing my opinion. I was quite content, but deep down, I always doubted whether this ‘transformation’, if we may call it, changed me from who I was.
When I looked at myself in the mirror, I’d always think to myself ‘which YOU are you?’, the shy, quiet little girl or the confident, animated person?
It was hard for me to accept the fact that while I became different, I was still the same. Literally, that is contradictory and makes no sense, but after these 18 years of my life, I can somehow understand: Being genuine to yourself is doing what convinces YOU. When you change, you change your convictions. But by changing, you’re still doing what convinces you; you are still being genuine to yourself.
So maybe I have undergone the clichéd change, quite ironically, considering my childhood self. Yet, I don’t have any regrets.
Yes. I have changed. But, I am true to myself. And, that’s all that matters.