It takes courage to say: “I thought it was a good idea at the time,” to admit things around or inside us have changed and openly be a different person, while at the same time not disparaging who we used to be. Behaviour of one kind, at a certain moment in our lives, does not represent commitment to a lifelong of behaviour of that kind – it represents our reaction in the moment, driven by everything that is true about us and around us in that moment. It took me 35 years, being forced into a corner of my life and scared for my safety to try and conceive that maybe, just maybe, I could actually … change. And that it will be ok.
Isn’t it ironical? We accept change in so many things – nature, our jobs, our children, our neighbours but, when it comes to ourselves, it strikes us as odd or even out of place. Or like we’re broken.
I grew up with C. Well, I grew up with her until I was around 17. We drifted apart and then tried to rekindle our friendship around the time I was 25, as I thought of telling C about a position opening up where I worked. It surprised me greatly to see that she expected me to be 17 in our relationship. When she made fun of people who had sustained me through thick and thin over the past decade almost, I stopped her and addressed it and she was just stunned: “I thought I knew you.” Yes, you did, almost ten years ago … I am a different person now. Isn’t that … to be expected?
The reactions we see in the others when our change becomes visible does not represent our guiding light in judging whether that change is opportune or the right path. The only barometer is that faint but permanent voice inside that whispers yes, you are getting closer to yourself or steer away, it’s not you.
When I asked for a divorce, my former husband was enraged. Of course he was. I was leaving him for someone else. And a woman, to top it all. I am sure it sounded like a bad movie, not his life. And after a 12 year marriage. “I thought I knew you,” he said before he reached the conclusion that tormenting me for half a year will for sure ungay me or make me come back to him begging for forgiveness for … who I was. When he realised that this was not going to happen, he switched his theory: you were never the person you said you were. You have been a liar all along.
The fact that we change, that, given our lived experiences, we discover new things about ourselves and act upon that, the fact that this may even mean you do a 180 on ourselves, none of this invalidates who we were at another point in our life. When I think back to my 20 year old self, to the teenager that I was, even to when I became a mother, fourteen years ago, it is almost like I see a completely different person but this does not mean who I am today is better. Just different.
Allowing change in our lives is evolutionary, it is growth. It would be so scary to remain in our teenage minds when we have the responsibilities of an adult parent. Pathological even.
It is always tough, painful even, to switch course when we realize we have entered a new season in our life. And it is, at the same time, indispensable for growth and a much better alternative to being stuck. This reality also spells out loud and clear for us that the only moment we have to actually live is the present, that it is only in the present that we are always known to ourselves (most important relationship we will ever have) and that we can’t and shouldn’t assume anything about tomorrow or stamp as permanent anything we enjoy today.
And one more thing, as we move along the path of … the best version of ourselves, we will shed people. People we would have sworn, at one point on another, will be in your lives forever, will all of sudden look foreign, the connection will be severed and things will become awkward. There is no use in trying to persuade people that our road is our own and that we are simply following it, growing and changing. That it is inevitable. There is no use trying to change them to fit our path. Some people only accompany us some of the way and leave the place next to us vacant so that another one can join us further down on our journey – because they are better partners for the part of the trip that follows.