Updated: Jan 21
I recently watched Causeway. I was struck with emotion at points throughout the film, and left with this reflection once it ended. Everything about this story spoke powerfully, from its social realism, to overcoming trauma, a narrative of broken lives and finding new ways forward. At the centre of its gravity, change.
Change can feel impossible, despite being inevitable. Some of us need it, some of us want it, sometimes it is forcefully imposed upon us. It’s generally framed through a positive lens, yet not all change is for the better. Sometimes it’s more to do with enduring what is put before us. Hoping that we can make some meaning out of it.
What is emphasised about change?
We tend to perceive change though life events, milestones, rites of passage and moments of transition. Yet change is broader than this. Everything is continually changing, ourselves included. When was the last time you watched a film, read a book or a news article that told an everyday story of change? Something that simply presented change without significance, such as the weather changing from rainfall to heavy rainfall, or a story of someone who decided to wear a different coat on a given day. Thinking of such examples feels strange, abstract and perhaps even mockable. Because change isn’t valued as an everyday story.
What this does to us.
The problem isn’t so much to do with the essence of change. It’s more to do with how we are unable to value ourselves in a landscape of grand stories and life fulfillment. We dismiss so much of our lived experiences that we neglect to see what has changed, and how much we have changed. We value the wrong types of change, often the types that are individualised and status driven rather than collective and prosocial.
Not everyone has the same access to positive change, and it is often those in the most precarious positions that are exposed to unwanted and negative change. Some of us have to work much harder for positive change, some of us may never face any significant change. Others may live their lives in a continual cycle of change that feels so intense that it cannot be ignored.
Whatever our experience of change, we still don’t feel that we have done enough. Whether we want to stay in one place, or move on, all too often we don’t have this choice.
Yet, it is those of us in disadvantaged positions who are in the greatest need of change.
As shown through the stories of Causeway, we all need to move out of bad situations and painful experiences. It’s our survival instinct.
Moving on isn’t just emotional though, it’s economic. To move on indicates that we have the agency to create change for ourselves. How many times do we see a story about someone who climbed a mountain or did something really ‘life changing’ as an act of moving forward? Yet rarely do we question how the person raised the funds to do this. It’s often glossed over as setting up a business or a charity fund. Yet to do that requires a great level of social and economic capital. It requires being noticed by the right people, and most importantly time.
Even following trauma, so many of us have to propel ourselves back into the world without any scope for creativity or innovation. When we are economically disadvantaged, we do not have the time to move on and create change. We have to do whatever is needed to financially survive, stories that are not so interesting to read.
Yet these are the stories that we should be reading. Hearing those who couldn’t move forward, those who didn’t move on. Because those stories are where the truth lies, those are the stories where change is needed the most.
A new story.
Life changing events will continue to sell as social and cultural resources, because they promote independence. Yet unless change can be for collective benefit by equalising society, then ultimately it isn’t inspirational. It’s ideological. Another divisive measure of class and socioeconomic advantage.
But there are the small, everyday changes too. Those that tell us more about where we are going collectively, as well as highlighting our flaws as a society. Those that arise by us thinking critically, questioning who we are and what we need to do differently. We may not all be able to climb mountains, but we can change our lives and we can change this story.
Change in this sense is inspirational, because we are all a part of it.