As a recent college graduate, I am experiencing a large amount of melancholy. I miss the last four years of my life. Thinking about my old campus, professors, and friends can get me a little misty-eyed, even though I know I am ready for bigger and better things.
I also see a good number of friends who are doing all they can to preserve their old lives. They say they are maintaining the “status quo”, and on the surface it seems like an ideal plan. After all, the status quo has worked so far. Who is to say it won’t go on working?
No one seems to question the concept of the status quo. But there are a few common misconceptions about it that should be pointed out. It’s easy to ignore them and painful to acknowledge them, but confronting these five hard truths about the status quo will help you to live a better and fuller life down the line.
1. The status quo is not self-sustaining.
The status quo does not happen all by itself and without the effort of many people. Whether that means getting a job in your hometown, renting an apartment close by your parents’ home, or enrolling in another unnecessary semester at school, maintaining the status quo takes effort on your part. It is not a free pass or an excuse not to work. You are still working. You’re just not going anywhere.
2. The status quo does not save you from making choices.
Maintaining the status quo is a choice you make every morning when you get out of bed. At any second, you could choose to hop on a bus and go to New York City for a day, but instead you choose to watch Netflix until 2 p.m. You could choose to hitchhike to California and interview for a dream job, but you choose to clock in at that part time position you’ve had every summer since you turned 18. You are still making choices, and they can go just as wrong as exciting choices. Which brings me to point three…
3. The status quo is not a fool-proof plan.
Lightning could strike the tree by your driveway and crunch your car. You could get hit by a bus crossing the street. You could be fired from that part time summer job. Someone in your family could die. There are so many factors outside of your control, factors that do not honor your carefully cultivated status quo. With every choice comes the possibility of disaster. It does not matter how small or comfortable those choices are.
4. Your status quo might be affecting someone else’s status quo.
For example, imagine moving back home after college for an indeterminate amount of time. It might be comfortable and familiar to you, but what if your parents had gotten used to you being out of the house? Their status quo has just been affected by you. What if you come back to that summer job and a less experienced employee gets laid off to make room for you? Their status quo has just gone down the drain. Everyone’s status quo cannot coexist simultaneously, so what makes your status quo more important than the next person’s?
5. The status quo is not natural.
Change is the natural order of the universe. Stars change positions in the sky, trees shed their leaves in the autumn, your body regenerates a whole new set of cells every seven years. Cars break down. Babies grow into corporate executives. Fire turns logs into ash and pressure turns coals into diamonds. Attempting to stay still in this torrential riptide of natural, unavoidable change is not only bad for your psyche and your attunement to the world around you—it’s useless. People are born and die no matter what. At least change allows us to live a little in between.