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The Only Constant

The Only Constant

The Only Constant

The other day, my phone showed me a picture from the day I landed in the Netherlands two years ago under featured photos. The timestamp said 10:37pm- a very sad looking thin-crust pepperoni pizza on the coffee table with a kitchen roll to the side, because none of the plates were washed. It was my first meal in a new continent, jet-lagged and wired after 24 hours of traveling and quite heartsick. The pizza wasn’t very good and I had paid slightly too much for what it was, but I remember feeling a very singular type of content. The living room was bare of decorations, and the light bulbs washed the room in a sad pale yellow, but it was a good first night- a very quintessential one, reminiscent of the near-empty apartments rented by freshly moved out kids, fitted with beige carpet and a single blow up mattress. I was still the person I used to be back home, and the only thing that had changed was my physical location. 

 

Looking at that picture plunged me into a good few minutes of introspection- the walls of the living room are plastered in mine and my roommate’s favorite media now and there are washed plates to put the pizza on. I’ve also discovered better pizza places along the way. Things have changed in mundane, unnoticeable ways and in ways that leave my head reeling. 

In the archetypal melodrama of people spreading their wings for the first time, I always used to wonder if I’d undergo some sort of revelatory transformation through the process of building a new life myself, if the tactile exercise of sinking my hands into the the intangible viscosity of routine and reshaping it from scratch would shape me back in return. I had always imagined it to be loud and flashy, something like emerging from the chrysalis of unsteady feet and stumbling words to turn into someone hard-edged and proud almost overnight. But here’s the thing about change- it’s a slow-drip coffee stream, slow enough so you don’t notice it as it’s happening, but it accumulates into something bigger, drop by drop, until you finally notice your cup spilling over. There’s something far less acidic in your hands now, and it was worth the meticulous pruning. Suffice it to say, I didn’t turn into someone self-assured over the span of two days but there’s no denying the slight surety in my gait now, an extra pep that was never there before. This is change in its murmuring glory. 

 

Despite whipping it into something sweeter now, change used to be one of my biggest fears. Out of things that go bump in the night and shadows that linger in my periphery in the dark, the uncomfortable uncertainty that change brings with it trumps the hardwired evolutionary fear of the unknown instilled in me. 

But what is change if not the unknown anyway? 

As much as change can be a steady meandering river, it is the riptide that takes you underneath sometimes. It’s as constant as a river current, speeding and slowing with silt and sand in its path. I often think about the epithet, ‘change is the only constant’, my first memory of it being in the gravelly voice of my primary English teacher under his strict gaze. I was perhaps too young to really know the gravitas behind those words but a decade or so later, it’s as familiar to me as my best friend’s face. 

The specter of change perpetually looms in the shadowy corners of life- a constant- and there are not enough bowls of salt in the world to ward that specific spirit away. It belongs there regardless, holding the walls up and keeping everything moving even through its non-corporeality. There’s something to be said about how there are few things better than fresh bedding, peeling the sticker off a new appliance, or a new collectible mug displayed on your shelf. There are few things better than the thrill that comes with something new- the subtle zinging in your fingertips, the unfamiliarity of it all, the sudden unfurling of possibilities. None of those little unfamiliar pleasures in life would happen if change weren’t rearing its ugly head at every minor, inconsequential crossroad. it’s a necessary evil as much as it’s a gift. 

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There’s no entirely preparing for change as much as we’d like to grapple for control over every little thing in our lives. It’s change that takes us by the collar and shakes us down at times. Other times, we force its hand, leading it out with a carrot on a stick. The cup you’re holding in your hands switches from sugary coffee to honeyed tea somewhere along the way, and you find yourself enjoying it just as much. That’s perhaps the beauty of change. You know it’s coming, you may just not always know when.

Writer: Jude Majumdar

Editor: Csenge Nagy-György

Visuals: Diana Chaika, Csenge Nagy-György

 

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