Cross roads/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Learning to embrace change

Change is a natural part of the human experience, shaping our journeys from the cradle to adulthood and beyond. Yet, as we transition into adulthood, societal expectations often impose an outward display of stability, obscuring the reality that change remains a constant companion throughout our lives. It’s a curious paradox: while children and teenagers are celebrated for their adaptability and resilience in the face of change, adults are expected to embody a steadfastness that disguises the inherent flow of the human experience.

From the earliest moments of our lives, we are encouraged to explore, experiment, and adapt to new experiences. Childhood and adolescence are characterised by growth and transformation as individuals navigate learning challenges, forming friendships, and discovering their passions. During these formative years, change is accepted and embraced as a natural part of the journey towards adulthood.

However, as individuals transition into adulthood, societal expectations often undergo a shift. There is a prevailing belief adults should have already established their identities and settled into a stable state. This expectation is reinforced by societal norms that prize consistency and predictability, often equating maturity with consistency.

Within the chaos of university life, a striking truth emerges: it’s anything but a linear path. Amidst lectures, assignments, and social gatherings, many students grapple with a sense of disillusionment. Despite the appearance of adulthood and being treated as such – with all the continuous probing about our post-graduation plans, career goals and romantic endeavours – we are also urged to seize our youth and savour the freedom that comes with being students. Our twenties are hailed as our ‘prime time’, and they’re our ‘selfish years’, but it often doesn’t feel that way. It’s as though we’re expected to effortlessly embody both the carefree spirit of youth and the pragmatism of adulthood, all while navigating the demands of university life.

By challenging the notion our identities are fixed, we open ourselves up to the possibility of personal and collective evolution

This juxtaposition can leave us feeling as though we’ve drawn the short straw. This expectation to handle this effortlessly leaves a lot of students masking, reluctant to freely engage in substantive conversations, and many feeling isolated in their struggles as a result. It’s like we’re under the impression that we are individually dealing with this in the wrong way. The sooner we realise this is a shared struggle, the sooner we can find and foster supportive communities to welcome and navigate such change, to indeed become ‘selfish’ regarding these changes.

We are further conditioned to believe our identities and experiences are intrinsically tied to our age, hence the pervasive nature of age-based categorisations in friendships and relationships. People do not seem to grow out of secondary school ‘cliques’ even if they no longer are friends with the same individuals. This reflects a more profound fear of the unknown, a reluctance to embrace change and a desire to maintain the status quo. This stifles creativity and inhibits collective progress, as people make decisions on who to befriend or frequent based on the societal dictations of how individuals should behave and what milestones they should achieve at certain stages of life. By challenging the notion our identities are fixed, we open ourselves up to the possibility of personal and collective evolution. We can also create a more inclusive and empathetic society that celebrates the diversity of human experience and recognises the power of change.

The pervasive expectation of remaining predictable manifests subtly, from the casual remark of “You’ve changed!” to the deeper undertones of confusion, blind sidedness, and even resentment accompanying significant shifts in our lives. Unfortunately, people lose friends and partners because of this. Indeed, studies have shown that individuals who seek change themselves may be met with scepticism or resistance from others, particularly if the shift challenges existing norms or disrupts established relationships. The phenomenon of ‘change aversion’ is deeply ingrained in human psychology, stemming from a fear of the unknown and a desire to maintain the status quo. People tend to see change as negative. This feeling is akin to loss, hampering the ability to consider the very real benefits.

However, with the rise of social media, there has been a notable shift in societal attitudes towards change. Online communities have become hubs of diverse perspectives and experiences, providing individuals a platform to explore new ideas, connect with like-minded people, and embrace change in all its forms. While social media has its issues, and the question of authenticity online remains ever-present, it has democratised the conversation around change, making it more accessible and inclusive than ever before.

Instead of viewing change as a threat, we can see it as an opportunity to deepen our connections with ourselves and others

Social media’s preoccupation with self-care and personal development has catalysed this shift in societal attitudes towards change. Platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are overflowed with affirmations, self-help tips, and wellness practices, encouraging people to prioritise their well-being. Through curated feeds and online communities, we are empowered to embrace change as a means of personal growth and transformation, fostering a culture of self-discovery.

So, amidst the complexities of human interaction, there exists a glimmer of hope – a recognition that change, even when met with resistance, can be a catalyst for empathy, understanding, and growth. Instead of viewing change as a threat, we can see it as an opportunity to deepen our connections with ourselves and others. Learning to embrace the vibrancy and dynamism of the human spirit is key, and thus, we emerge stronger, wiser, and more fulfilled. Therefore, ready for the next inevitable change.


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