When I left for college last fall, I insisted that nothing in my room at home be touched or moved.
My pink and blue sparkly pillows and dog and dragon and other stuffed animals were to stay on my bed; my 15 AP and SAT test-prep books were to remain in my Pottery Barn chest, with the lid slightly ajar to make room for that last unnecessary book. The lamp that I had stopped using years ago was to sit on my nightstand and look pretty, as it always had.
Everything was going to stay the same, whether my mom liked it or not, and that included the stack of Roger Hargreaves’ Little Miss and Mr. Men books that had been meticulously stuffed into my bookshelf.
I don’t like change. Maybe that makes me boring and uninspiring and, perhaps, even cowardly. But I like the status quo, even if I haven’t always been allowed to stew in my constancy.
It started early on, when I refused to budge after putting my mom through 30 hours of labor. Her doctor was forced to do a C-section, because I just didn’t want to leave my mom’s cocoon of comfort.
Apparently my birth was a early indicator of what would become a lifetime of sloth. If I don’t come to the dinner table within five minutes of her calling me, mother will begin grumbling about how I’ve been a royal pain ever since I put her through labor for nothing.
Since having my umbilical cord cut, I’ve had to do a lot of literal moving around: first, from my beloved preschool teacher, Devi Aunty, to kindergarten under cruel teachers who didn’t bake fluffy idlis, saucy pasta, and chewy cookies for me.
Soon after, I was carted off to Paris for a year and a half. I was eight years old, and I wasn’t pleased about being uprooted, given my thriving social life. It was a change that ended up going pretty smoothly, largely because it’s near impossible not to fall in love with Paris. Things are a lot easier when your biggest responsibilities are to practice the violin under the Eiffel Tower or guard your mom’s purse from pickpocketers. And change is certainly a lot more bearable when you have your entire family by your side.
I was torn from my first love, Paris, yanked back home, and forced back into my elementary school’s itchy uniforms. Even at that age, I knew what I had lost. When I looked out my window, I no longer saw the Eiffel Tower. I saw Almaden Expressway. I had slowly settled into a routine in Paris, and I was again pulled out of it. To add insult to injury, some of my friends at Challenger School had forgotten who I was in the months that I had been gone.
A few years later, I was taken out of Challenger and thrust into the local public school. After another three years, I was transplanted into the Saratoga, Calif., district for high school. This meant years of losing friends, making friends, and eventually figuring out who my true friends were. I grumbled and moaned and whined, but I moved on.
I never like change when it happens. It’s never exciting for me the way it is for other people. But when I’m forced to make a change, I always figure it out. I spend a good chunk of time complaining, but against my own will, I often eventually end up happier than I had been before. I guess we all find a way to adapt to new things.
All this doesn’t mean that I got any better at letting go. Take the time my mother asked me if I should switch violin teachers to grow further in technique and repertoire. I had been with the same teacher for a decade, and it would have been a great idea to study under another teacher with different ideas and strengths. But I liked the comfort of learning with someone who had literally watched me grow since the age of four. I liked that she knew when I was exhausted and decided to be a little easier on me that week. I liked that she cared to ask about the other things that were consuming my time, and that she didn’t expect me to throw everything away for the violin.
I think when you’ve invested years into a relationship—whether it’s a friendship or something romantic—it’s very hard to just let it go. It’s hard to move on when the people you surround yourself with have learned to understand and accept your moods and eccentricities and ridiculous lingo.
I hate change because I hate having to rebuild friendships. I hate having to prove to a new set of people that I’m worth their time. As a young journalist, I’m all for meeting and talking to new people. But turning those strangers into friends? That’s completely different.
My latest change was, of course, coming to college. It’s a change that most of us are forced to make, and I’m sure that many teenagers would have been thrilled to fly the coop and land halfway across the country like I did. But those of you who know me (or read these columns!) are aware that, as always, I wasn’t excited for even this move.
And now here I am, a few weeks away from the end of my freshman year. I think I can safely say that I’ve made a pretty smooth transition. So much so that I actually have those cheesy moments where I sit in our student center, look outside at the ducks squawking away in the lakefill, and thank my stars that I got into this school and, more importantly, that I accepted the offer of admission.
Moving on isn’t easy, even when you’ve made more than a few successful changes in your life. I’m sure we’d all like to cling to certain things—certain hopes, feelings, people, places, and maybe even certain children’s books—but there comes a point when we have to pry ourselves away and move on.
I’d love to stay forever tangled in Mr. Tickle’s arms and Little Miss Bad’s antics. But I’m slowly realizing that I’ve got to stop being Little Miss Careful … and try, try, try to become Little Miss Change.
|Pavithra Mohan is a freshman at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.|