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Changing with the times

The fallacy of directive transformation OR the random observations of a distracted mind.

Now, I’m not one for generalist sweeping statements (unless they serve to strengthen my argument) but I feel fairly justified saying that everyone, everywhere wants to change.  There’s a part of all of us that wants to rise phoenix like from the ashes of our lives, transformed, renewed, reborn.

And why shouldn’t we? We’re all changing all of the time anyway, and if we’re doing a reasonable job at life, then we should be in a constant state of evolution, becoming slowly more self-aware, kinder and less inclined to behave like the proverbial 5 year old with a machine gun, recklessly damaging everything around us because we don’t realise we can.

So, change and evolution as a fundamentally universal and human process are inevitable.  But trying to force yourself into a shape you weren’t built for, in the name of becoming someone who can run into an old friend or lover knowing you have won at the game of life, are slightly less inclined to make you rejoice in your authenticity and feel the tremendous energy of being alive.

Now, in an attempt to move away from painting you all liberally with my broad brush, I’ll bring this back to my own experience of healthy and unhealthy change.

For me, it all started at 7 years old when I started reading the book series, “Sweet Valley Twins” (later to radically transform into “Sweet Valley High”) which was a series of books set in Southern California and staring a set of identical twins.  Elizabeth, studious and responsible, and Jessica, the wild free spirit.

They had blonde hair that shone like the sun, lots of sleepovers and parents that were a nice mix of caring-enough-to-be-strict and loose-enough-to-be-fun.  They went to diners and ate burgers and had beach parties.  Shit, these bitches had it all.  And I wanted it.

Flash forward to some years later and I wasn’t very happy.  I had moved away from Jessica and Elizabeth as my ‘perfect human’ prototypes, but I was still trying to be someone else so I could be more like everyone else.  And it wasn’t working for me.

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I had a mini-breakthrough when I was 22.  I was driving in my car and got an image in my mind.  It was of a parrot, trapped in a hall of circus mirrors, forever flying towards a distorted image of itself.  I’m not sure where this image came from, but there was something about its predicament that reminded me so much of my own.

Of course, I quickly forgot about the parrot and went back to my life of seeking approval through some sort of connection, which I thought would come through conformity.  Purge your demons, smother your shame and run quickly into the arms of someone you might just, with the right kind of guidance, become.

Now, at 35, through the process of having a life, and having relationships and fucking up a lot I’ve changed in ways that I think have made me better.  At some point I realised that freedom was not changing into a prototype, or burning your demons, but in collecting them up, giving them a place and allowing them to be.

Now, admittedly, I don’t really know anything.  In fact, I’m not even sure I believe in knowing, and if I did I would probably change my mind.  What I think is this.    There is no universal view that is separate to yours.  Occasionally a few people get together to collude over an idea of what’s right and good, and some of them are pretty convincing at making it seem like the truth.  But it’s just sentences that get repeated a lot, and it doesn’t really mean anything.

So, if you’re lucky enough to be born in Southern California as an identical twin – enjoy it for what it is.  And if not, you’ve probably got something anyway.  And it’s worth a lot more than striving to be something else.

Anna Alexander is a writer, communicator, and over-sharer who lives in Sydney.

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