Growing up on a steady diet of Hollywood coming-of-age stories whose protagonists are sometimes accused of changing for the worse, the elevation of constancy over change had been inculcated in me since young.
At school, my friends would pick apart the differences we noticed in our peers:
“Hey, did you notice how Diane now wears makeup?”
“Doesn’t Li Ting seem like a completely different person after getting into that new relationship?”
“Did you hear Elliot’s accent after he got back from the UK? Yikes.”
I was so afraid of being marked with the same brand of inconstancy that I clung ever more tightly to my underdeveloped teenager self, especially when I moved to England for university.
I made sure that I didn’t lose the bitchiness that lent my jokes their trademark bite, the comfortable political centrism borne out of cynicism rather than sympathy, the Singaporean accent that signalled I still wanted to be a part of my local community.
But even the most stubborn of us have a hard time standing firm against the waves of change that roll in from all sides of life.
Whether I liked it or not, the people and ideas around me gently eroded the walls I built up, challenged the ideas I held dear, and pushed me to venture down hitherto avoided paths.
The world wasn’t the only source shaping me, however. I also felt God nudging me in ever more uncomfortable directions.
One day, a friend remarked in passing that she had no idea I was Christian. That was a wake-up call for me. I realised that it was no longer enough to silently profess my faith without living it out.
God was challenging me to put him first, even in small ways: to share that outreach event instead of scrolling past it on Facebook, to tell the uncomfortable truth instead of resorting to a convenient white lie that would easily get me out of a sticky situation.
Back in secondary school, I never spoke about my Christian faith. Now I write for a Christian website and quote Bible verses like one of those “holy people” I was so hesitant about turning into.
When I went to university, I was so afraid of coming back as someone my friends no longer recognised. But then I returned and realised that there were parts of them that had changed too.
Cheri has become more compassionate and caring. Zhenqi no longer keeps all her troubles bottled up inside. Natalie has outgrown her silent treatment tendencies and is now more adept at holding frank conversations. YY has shed her insecurities and blossomed into a confident artist more sure of her worth.
Things change and people change, but sometimes they change for the better.
A big part of growing up is not just embracing change, but also being brave enough to actively seek it out.
I used to think I wanted a life partner who would unquestioningly accept me as I was, warts and all.
But I’ve come to realise that to seek someone who will idly stand by while I indulge my worst tendencies will be to cheat myself of a valuable chance to grow. After all, how terrible it would be if I stagnated at 22!
The other day, my friends and I dug out an old story we wrote when we were 15. As might be expected, it was terribly written, riddled with cliches, awkward syntax and more plot holes than the final season of Game of Thrones. It was a painful read, but also an encouraging reminder of how far we’ve come since then.
I’m not the same person I was at 15 and I thank God for it.
However, I sometimes wonder if it’s my core personality that has changed or just my circumstances. Sure, my life goals have evolved beyond getting the approval of my cool Literature teacher, but I still spend more time than I should worrying about what other people think of me.
I’ve come to discover that a big part of growing up is not just embracing change, but also being brave enough to actively seek it out. It means weeding out the aspects of my personality that keep me shackled to childhood insecurities and reorienting my goals around God.
So, for one, I’m trying to be less of a people pleaser and channel my energy into more meaningful concerns.
At the present, I’m on the cusp of another big life change. In less than a week, I’ll be entering the working world properly for the first time.
In many ways, I’m still fearful of the changes working life will bring. I’m worried that I won’t have enough headspace to focus on my walk with God, or that old, hyper-competitive tendencies will resurface.
Not to end on a well-worn cliche, but there’s a lot of truth in the saying that the only constant is change.
And yet there’s the comfort of knowing that I’m a child of God – and that my value isn’t dictated by worldly standards like how much I earn or who I know.
As God shapes and moulds me, I hope I learn to surrender fully and embrace the changes He continues to work in my life. To see every curveball as a learning opportunity, every failed relationship as an act of pruning.
To everyone who can relate, keep searching, keep praying, keep fixing your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).
THINK + TALK
- What changes have been unsettling for you?
- What positive changes have you seen in yourself – both in character and conduct – in recent times? What were the circumstances that prompted the change(s)?
- In what areas can you grow to become more Christlike?