Text Evita Belegri
In the darkness of my room, this surface looks like every other grey-coloured paper. So gloomy, so dull, that I would not have guessed that when I turned on the light, it would transform into a dazzling silver, with an orange stripe, that fades into yellow and then green. A holographic surface does not stay the same unless its environment does. It reflects its surroundings, but most importantly, I argue, it reflects us;
I stand in front of my mirror, for an hour, frustratingly staring at my hair. My now long dark brown hair has known various shapes and sizes but never another colour. I have been fed up with it for years and decided I wanted a change. But now that I have bought the dyes and the equipment, I’ve suddenly become fond of how my dark brown hair looks. Why would I replace this warm welcoming colour that matches with my eyes for anything else?
This refusal to change my appearance and let go of my previous one came unexpectedly and unreasonably. I wonder whether it came because I was unable to let go of my old looks, frantically grasping for something familiar. Or maybe I only came to appreciate what I have in the prospect of changing it. Some say that the idea of not appreciating what we have until we lose it comes from our inability to deal with letting go and change. And yet if I look back, my reflection has never stayed the same. Most of the cells that constitute me change periodically through the years. My body has continuously moulded to make me the woman I am today and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. A hair dye is not the most dramatic change I will undergo.
I let go of my reflection in the mirror, grab my jacket and leave my house, rushing to catch the metro. Fortunately, I live on the outskirts of the city, so the wagon has available seats when I walk in. I take my seat, put my earphones on and type in this podcast I found the other day; The Way Out Is In by Plum Village. I listen to a Buddhist monk talking about the principle of impermanence while the landscape in front of me moves as the train accelerates. His words resonate with me and my flat denial of dyeing my hair. I listen to his soothing voice that reveals the secret to a peaceful mindset: that permanence is a myth. Everything is impermanent: my emotions, my relationships, my environment, even my life. ‘Everything that is Today, Tomorrow is not’, the Buddhist monk recites. Observing the nature around me, further reveals that. The seeds will grow into a flower which will in turn ultimately decay, or perhaps it will abruptly be cut by a passerby. The cycle of water also demonstrates the impermanence of form: a droplet in a river becomes thin air and then condenses into mist in the sky, only to fall into the earth as a raindrop and then maybe freeze into ice. Like a holographic piece of paper which does not stay fixed but alters its colours, everything in the universe continuously transforms into something else, and so will I. Thus, one of the best things I must do to reduce my stress is stop resisting change: stop holding on to the past and embrace those transformations.
We get so attached to the ‘old ways’: our past appearance, our past way of thinking, our past relationships, our past environments, our past sources of happiness. Abrupt change seems like such a tragedy, and most of the time it can feel scary to even think about. Losing a loved one, having to move, changing jobs, our own impermanence on this earth. Change feels like a ‘loss’, and yet it is the only road for us to mould into someone else, which to me, makes life exciting. Sometimes, I admit, I get overwhelmed with how abruptly my life and myself changed when I moved countries and had to deal with new environments, new people, new responsibilities, and new rhythms. However, I always have this one friend that reminds me that ‘stagnant waters stink’ and that it is exactly those new situations that help me develop. Thinking of myself five years ago, I realise how much I have changed and that I am an entirely different person now. Such reflection makes me excited to see what people will inhabit this ever-changing body during the course of my life.
Moreover, it is this acknowledgment of the possibility of change that makes us able to enjoy anything. The beauty of everything lies in its impermanence; it makes our happiness valuable and our suffering bearable. Looking at this holographic piece of paper that moulds into something different if you switch its environment is a good reminder that we cannot take any form for granted. It is the attribute of impermanence that makes its texture special and so beautiful to the human eye. Only by letting go of who we are in the present, reminding ourselves that we are subject to change, can we truly appreciate our current configuration. Only by realising that our relationships won’t last forever, our body will stop functioning as it does now, our appearance won’t look the same, that the phase we are in right now will change, that we will move from our environments, that our happiness might turn into suffering one day. Only by making those realisations can we fully embrace their beauty, and in return, when we suffer, seeing that these emotions and all the stressors that make life unbearable will eventually go away, understanding change gives us the glimpse of hope we need to go on.
I touch my dark brown hair. I acknowledge its growth all these years and I also acknowledge that it will become grey at some point and eventually decay. This realisation makes my hair the most beautiful I have ever seen it. Dyeing it is only a small change compared to these which my hair has undergone, is undergoing, and will undergo. If I like it, recognizing that the dye will go away will make me appreciate it even more and if I do not, the same realisation will make it okay not to like my hair for a while. With this, suddenly a change of colour does not seem so momentous in the end.