a theory of change.

Orange, NSW

Memory is hackable.

Maybe change is the secret to a longer life. 

My life, which is my memory, is broken up into chunks. The chunk where I was living in Leichhardt having baths every night listening to that one song by Chet Faker. The chunk when I was obsessed with Zumba and sweating every night to drown out a disaster. The chunk where I was living in AirbnBs in my own city. The chunk backpacking in South East Asia with my granddad’s old brown bag. The chunk where I lived in Redfern, walking down tree-lined streets in Birkenstocks. The chunk where I stayed in Havana and studied Spanish with Germans and played ukulele in pink summer squares. The chunk when I was camping in the verdant deep south with a dutchman with an unpronouncable name. The chunk when I was a UX researcher at Atlassian. The chunk when I was working in a fridge factory in Orange, walking in the winter dark for 6am starts. The chunk when I was partying with hippies in Wollongong. The chunk when I did a raw food diet until my toenail fell off when I went camping with photography students in Megalong Valley. 

Now, when I look back, I can’t tell you exactly how long each of these chunks lasted. 

They all seem… about the same size. 

A dance school in Havana, Cuba

A dance school in Havana, Cuba

In my memory, they’re all bricks in the wall, and they fit together quite neatly. 

Given the perspective of time, each of these chunks gets worn down to fit alongside the others into the wall. One chunk might have lasted a month, and another lasted two years. Despite that — in the wall of memory, they end up looking about the same size. 

That’s what scares me about not changing. 

I could live a whole year — a whole year of feelings, moments, people, of thoughts and stresses and small victories — and given a little time it’ll be neatly compressed down, just like the rest, into just another chunk of about the same size.

 All that time, faded into just another building block of my past. 

It doesn’t feel like an efficient use of time.

Surry Hills, Sydney

Surry Hills, Sydney

Because there’s an alternative. I can flip the table of my life and suddenly create a tumbling avalanche of new blocks. 

With the resource of one year, if you do the same thing for every day of that year, you create one memory chunk. Even if every year is different enough to each other — still, at the end, your wall will be made up of what - eighty? - building blocks. That’s a pretty small wall.  

What if you stopped at one point and spent ten years doing pretty much the same thing every day? Your wall — at the end — is now only 71-blocks-large. 

But what if you made big changes in your life every month or two? Then maybe your wall gets three or four or five or twelve new building blocks every year. Bigger wall. Bigger life. 

In this way, change expands your life.

Here’s what I know. 

Changes that shake you up feel like new building blocks. Moving house makes a new building block. New habits make new building blocks. New jobs make new building blocks. But periods need to be long enough, and emotionally impactful enough, to become a block — otherwise the change fades into oblivion like the rest. 

This is why I dig consulting, and freelancing, and nomadding, and being free to wander. Change makes life larger.  

Finisterre, the westernmost point of the Iberian peninsula

Finisterre, the westernmost point of the Iberian peninsula

Nicola Rushton