On Changing

Essay 18

My old auntie used to say that marriage is like a cover, if one person turns the other has to turn too. I think how you’re as free as how much you’re allowed to change. My friends says it’s called “degrees of freedom” in statistics, my instincts then must be statistical.

I have changed my mind about something recently, and a whole lot of covers were thrown off, untucked—you tug, they tug, a tug of war. You’re a new country suddenly with no diplomatic relations, you go from house to house, you introduce yourself and bring cake.

We fight the world in other people when we want to change. The obstacles are never inanimate, never speechless. I tell people if you want to see if you’re really allowed to do something, do just a little bit of it and see if there’s screaming.

Some people are born democracies, e unus plurimos, summer piazzas of quarrelling voices all somehow governed and channeled into rest. It is they that can bend into well-aimed action, it is they that can work with what’s different, and not break.

I tell people we like liberties because they let us change, freedoms that give way to journeys, and don’t make you pretend you’ve arrived.