by Lucy Mellor
A common character description, be it in a novel, short story or play, is ‘doesn’t like change’. Whether said explicitly in the writing or, in the case of more crafty writers, implied by the character’s actions, it often seems to be an easy way of giving their personality that extra quirk, or of making them different somehow, as though none of us are like this in reality. I can only conclude that we all accept this in order to kid ourselves that refusing change is fiction, and that being stuck in your ways is fun to read about because it doesn’t happen all too often. In my limited experience, however, it seems to be the case that we’re not quite as ready to accept change as we like to think.
I was lucky in that I had a Sixth Form that pushed the idea of Oxbridge towards me. Certainly had I stayed at my secondary school for A Levels, I would not have applied. But whilst this university-focused approach was a godsend for me, I couldn’t help feeling irritated on behalf of my friends not going to university. All tutors seemed to talk about was personal statements, UCAS applications, and student finance. What with there already not being enough graduate jobs for the number of graduates, and with around 40% of young people entering higher education, I couldn’t help thinking that pushing people who didn’t want to go to university into applying wasn’t helping anyone.
I felt almost a sense of pride when my friends refused to give in to the pressure and got jobs after sixth form instead. Then overnight they turned into their parents.
Watching my parents get up in the morning, go to jobs they hate, come home and have dinner, then spend the evening watching TV before going to bed, I could convince myself that this was something that happened to old people. A ritual of mundanity. Even their supposed leisure activities were carefully scheduled and repeated each week: Friday 9pm-midnight at the local pub. But seeing it happen to my friends made it glaringly obvious that this was my life too. I’d simply delayed my ritual for another five years.
So I declared my ritual to be change. I never have the same cocktail twice. I alternate pizza toppings. Sometimes I walk clockwise round the Rad Cam instead of anti-clockwise. This way I can kid myself that I’ll never live a life of monotony.
In all seriousness, I genuinely do like change, and I’m yet to figure out whether everyone else doesn’t or if they’ve simply resigned themselves to the fact that their lives aren’t likely to change for the better anytime soon. The latter is a depressing probability. The thought of anyone’s life becoming so routine is not a nice one, and I’d like to hope they’d take all the possible opportunities to make their little ritual a more exciting one.
But then who am I to judge?
Maybe some people like routine. My grandparents have taken their summer holiday in the same hotel in the same resort for over twenty years. Perhaps it’s comforting in a world of disarray and chaos. Nothing stands still; a routine is an anchor in an otherwise changing world. Even my ritual of change is a carefully planned one: I’ll take a new route to the supermarket if I’ve looked it up on maps five times and I know how long it will take me. Planning the change is a ritual in itself for me.
I’m the person who reads the story about someone who refuses change and convinces myself that’s not me. Even now I tell myself I won’t become my parents. I’m optimistic about my future. But I’m the one advocating for change, so there’s plenty of time to become a pessimist yet.