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What Do We Do With Change?

By Hong Liying Rie (22J06)


A couple of weeks ago, I came to the horrifying realisation that my younger brother is almost my height.


This, perhaps, is the moment that every older sibling dreads. Gone were the days when I could gloat about being taller, even as he struggled on his tiptoes. Now, it’s only a matter of time before he towers over me with a smirk.


As the years passed, I never once realised that I was watching him grow tall, centimetre by centimetre. Yet there’s a troubling truth that I have no choice but to face - I won’t be taller than him forever. One day, I will no longer hold his hand, put him to bed, or reach down to ruffle his hair. He’s growing up.


Admittedly, given my not-so-impressive stature, this was unavoidable; but it left me with the earth-shattering revelation that somehow, things had begun to change.


The Fear of Change


No, not that kind of change


Change. It feels like a cruel joke that the universe plays on us, a curse that we collectively bear as fragile beings subject to Fate’s every whim. The moment you get the slightest bit comfortable with something, you’re dealt a new card to consider - and the stakes continue to rise. It’s something we all wish we didn’t have to come to terms with, and yet it remains as unavoidable as ever.


It feels so surreal - it seems I was seven yesterday, but I’ll be eighteen tomorrow. What happens when the clock strikes twelve? How do I go from foolish to wise, naive to worldly, child to adult? What do I do if I’m not ready to grow up? What do we do with change?


Sociologists call this identity paralysis - the struggle to move on from your past identity and embrace your new self. Change is uncertain, unpredictable, and unknown. It comprises all that we fear, as a race that seeks to find a pattern to every phenomenon and an answer to every question.


Change: Friend or Foe?



Although, if we approach things from a macro perspective, perhaps we aren't so averse to change after all. From the Stone Age to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, our ability to meet change head-on has repeatedly allowed us to emerge stronger. We let the possibilities unravel and found a way to turn them into new life, we weathered through tumultuous times and now stand at the brink of a new age, we mastered change and called it by another name - innovation.


The same applies to everyman. Change: a good servant, but a bad master. Why let it be the knife that wounds us when we can wield it instead?


We needn’t look any further than the ground beneath our feet for proof. The story of Singapore spanning more than two hundred years, detailing our journey from a sleepy fishing village to the bustling metropolis of today, suggests that change can be another word for opportunity. Our leap from third-world to first was by no means accidental. When caught at the knife edge of a century, how did our forefathers respond? They turned crisis into resolve and bore vigilance out of danger, using change as a stepping stone to the stars.


Another Type of Change?


“Change can destroy us, but it can also build us to unprecedented heights. You can let the ocean overwhelm you, or you can ride the waves.” At first, I was lulled into thinking that this was the answer I sought, but soon I realised that this only applied to the changes that could be swiftly and smartly engineered into a chance to seize.


Yet there are also the undeniably softer and sadder changes in our lives. Changes that don’t make their presence known through a flash or a bang, but sneak up on us and catch us in a moment of sudden vulnerability. They fall upon us like the dying rays of twilight - a reminder that the golden hour has passed, and will never again be recreated in quite the same way.


We are struck by the recognition that something good has just come to pass, but only learn to cherish it properly after it has faded into the horizon of yesterday. Even the memory of our glory days can turn bitter when clouded by haunting nostalgia. Isn’t it a waste, to have your favourite days hollowed out and tainted blue by sadness?


I scoured the Internet for a solution, but the problem with this kind of change is that there is no easy answer to it.


So here, I present the only conclusion I could draw.


What Do We Do With Change?



We naturally gravitate towards stability. We want to have everything within control, to stay close to the comfortable. It's even written in our anatomy - homeostasis, the ability of the body to maintain a stable internal environment despite changes in external conditions.


Yet change is a confusing thing. It disrupts the peace, throws things into disarray and places us in a position of compromise - and so the struggle for stability and against change dictates our lives.


But the fact remains that we can never taste the joy of the highs or the sorrow of the lows without knowing the in-betweens of change.


Maybe, then, it shouldn’t be buried but rather embraced as an irreplaceable part of our lives. Maybe it isn't just a hurdle to overcome, but a longer journey spanning the length of a life.


Perhaps that is the way things are meant to be, to spend a lifetime bobbing along the current searching for a mirage of a shore. Perhaps not every question needs an answer, and not every change needs a solution. If it’s true that change is the only constant, then the best thing we can do is rise to meet it, every time it surfaces.


Then, if it really calls for it… I'll buy platform shoes.


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