My Earring of Change

By Jack Tomlin

I was lying in bed several days ago and I realized I had an earring. Of course, I do not mean realize in the sense that the earring’s existence had never occurred to me before, and now comes as a great shock. But, more that I do not ever question its existence. A small ball of metal next to my neck (it’s a little strange). In that way, it is a part of me that I accept. However, it’s not really a part of me. About 8 years ago, a very nice lady in a pharmacy stuck it in.

It got me thinking about how other people perceived the earring. What does it tell them about me? Does it give rise to certain expectations? By unconsciously keeping the earring in, I shape these perceptions. To take it out would be to change the way people see me (to a certain extent). I found myself struck by the urge to do just that though. Take it out and flick the damn thing down the drain.

This idea of individual change, and especially control over that change, got me thinking about how we grow, develop, evolve and how different types of change shapes us.

There are two types of change in our lives. Those changes that happen gradually with the passing of time and those brought about by action. Passive and active change. An example of active change would be the decision made to uproot and study in a new country, or it may also be to accompany a friend to a bar you’ve never been to before. Passive change would be the accumulation of knowledge one gains from studying abroad leading to a new perspective on the world, or an increased openness to trying new bars around your city.

I wonder if these are measurable. If one type is better, or more valuable than the other. As University students in continental Europe, especially at internationally-oriented Maastricht, active change is inevitable. Students have made the active decision to relocate, to take up a course of study, to take a further semester abroad – all with the knowledge it lasts only for the duration of the degree(s). After this, jobs, internships, old countries etc. take over consideration and we start again.

It is exciting and challenging. But on the other hand leaves one longing for some stability. Active change following years of passive change can help us to see the world differently, meet new people, but it can also be tiring and uncertain. To start life again, break ties and question and doubt decisions made.

Periods of passive change following active change can bring deeper relationships, greater focus, a sense of belonging and identity. Which is great. But it can leave little space for reflection and fewer points of comparison when thinking about how you want to live your life, the person you want to be, or the people you want to be with.

Belonging to the group mentioned above, active change has, and will be, a big part of my life for some time yet. And for some of the reasons listed, that’s good and bad. It’s a balance. A balance within itself, but also with passive change. For me at least, life cannot be just constant active change, or constant passive change. I am neither the world-traveller, nor the life-long city socialite.

Break ties – to form new ones. Maybe there is less time to reflect – but more to reflect upon. Gain new perspectives on the world – to apply to your old life. Keep the earring in – to balance all the change.

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