Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I will Change for You!

I hear that line so often in movies, in songs, in everyday life.

“tell me who you want me to be”

“I can be that person”

My ex told me that on the day I broke up with him. As I listed the reasons why I believed that the relationship was not working, he described how it could be fixed –

“give me time”

“I can do that”

“I can be that”

I think it is the saddest concept ever. In fact, as I watched Washington Square (1997), I felt like crying as Catherine fell to her knees in the rain and screamed, “I can change!” Or something like that. Not even Catherine’s miserable past can truly explain her cry to change into the person the man she loved wanted. It’s extreme and the outcome is never good.

People are fickle, they never know what they truly want, and basing your entire personality on the whims of someone else is exhausting. People are also temporary – they die, they fall in love with someone else, they leave... And when they go, you are left without a sense of self; the concept of ‘you’ is a figment of your own imagination.

However, we all change as life continues to teach us new things: working in retail made me change by making me distrust people’s intentions; studying law changed me by making me less emotive when listening to people’s problems and more practical; doing nothing for the last seven months changed me by making me less of an egotist... Maybe the words “I will change for you” are too honest for me to believe.

I like to believe that I am the same with everyone (of course I’m a tad more quiet and shy with strangers when compared to my self-assured rambling side that I share with my friends). I talk to my parents in the same way that I talk to my friends (minus the expletives) not as a sign of disrespect but rather as a sign of my own warped view of respect. As seen by the bracketed comments we can never be the same person with every single person that we meet; we are constantly changing for everyone in our lives, modifying ourselves slightly to conform to the event/ another’s expectations or to some established norm. We like to think we don’t by going against such establishments (for example, wearing shorts to a formal evening), but such rebellion is always limited by various societal codes that prescribe sanctions for those who stray.

“Change is inevitable”

If you don’t change, you don’t grow; but surely there is a boundary to how far you would go to be accepted by another person! When I was in London, my cousin and I went shopping. We didn’t have much cash being South African and paying in pounds, but we didn’t really care at the time. She bought a book; if I remember correctly, it was something by Oscar Wilde. She bought it because it was the favourite book of this guy she liked. She started singing the songs that he liked and watching the movies that he told her he wanted to watch. I was no different. I bought an ipod and used my iTunes card to download all the songs that the guy I liked had mentioned in random conversation. It wasn’t even close to my general taste in music, but I grew to like it and now still listen to it. I even bought this musical toy thing because it reminded me of him. It was all a waste; it was all an attempt to modify ourselves into something more in tune with the men we liked.

However, sometimes change is merely a compromise. Doing things that someone else in your life likes gives you things to talk about and to do together. When I broke up with my ex, I remember thinking over who I actually was and who my relationship had made me become. I felt lost, as if everything that I liked was linked to everything that he had liked. But then I realised that I still liked the things that I may have liked because I was with him... and that’s the defining line – I didn’t put up with things that I hated and made myself like them. In this way I remained true to myself. Unlike Catherine, who was ready to throw away all her principles, her family and her reputation just to make a man who had used her to fall in love her. She begged him to love her offering him everything that she was...

In two weeks time, I will be formally employed. Should I change the way I paint my nails by applying more conservative colours to my nails? Should I change the way I dress by buying a new work wardroom? Will it change the way I write? The way I think? The way I communicate?

I feel like growing old is killing my ‘muchness’ (Alice in Wonderland) so I’m trying to be more conscious of the ways I change to conform to certain environments. It’s an impossible task to be constantly aware of everything that influences you but it will help me never to end up bargaining who I am for something that is not mine... At least I hope so.

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