As I’ve navigated the first few months of being 30, I’ve noticed a constant dialogue surrounding the idea of change. Our friends, our family members, our co-workers, our old hometown/high school acquaintances – I’ve encountered the same old phrase consistently: “wow, you/he/she has really changed.”
This is usually commented in an off-hand, slightly negative way, with the underlying meaning seeming to be, “wow, you’ve let life change you. wow, money/success has really changed you. wow, you’ve lost your way to yourself because of a/b/c.”
My reaction to this type of comment is usually, “what do you mean by that?” to which I almost never get a response, since people don’t tell you that you (or someone else) have/has changed as a compliment. What they’re doing is trying to say something they don’t feel comfortable saying without actually saying it, and assuming you’ll understand the meaning so they can wipe their hands clean of their intent.
I’ve never understood our cultural resistance to change in the first place. When someone states, “wow, you’ve changed!” my internal response is “you haven’t?” We should change in significant ways over decades of time. We should learn and grow from our mistakes and heartbreaks and mishaps – that’s the whole point of living a life in the first place. If we’re not changing over time, than what on earth are we doing?
In theory, change should be a fluid and celebrated part of life. We should ebb and flow on our way to who we really are, learning lesson after lesson as we encounter mistake after mistake. I realize that people usually mean “wow, you’ve changed!” to indicate that we’ve somehow betrayed ourselves; by changing our political views, our values, integrity, personality, or what’s most important. But I’ll argue that those things too, should be subject to change as we change as people over time.
First of all, the only person that knows our internal values, morals, items of importance, etc. is us. Ourselves, only. Not our friends, or peers, or co-workers or even family members or parents. No matter how we are raised or what values are instilled in us, we are still individual human beings that have a duty to uncover those gems for ourselves.
Secondly, if we are not supposed to change the big-ticket items, who is determining them? Where do our unchangeable morals and values come from? We start off as children and are taught those things by our parents, teachers, friends and society. We should not be beholden to the values of other people that we were instilled in childhood, and never be able to think critically enough to decide them on our own.
Lastly, we are changing, whether we want to recognize it or not. Over time, your cells are changing. Your brain is changing. Your hormones are changing. Your body is changing.
Just like they do for every. other. species. on. planet. earth.
Even at just 30 years old, I’m changing rapidly. Being a business owner – especially during a pandemic – has been like an internal-change pressure cooker. We’re learning so much and learning to deal and endure so much that it is logistically impossible for us not to change. Change is still scary, but so is everything else. We have to learn to deal with fear and change in order to move towards a better world.
The next time someone says, “wow, you/she/he has changed!” I’m inviting myself to openly answer, “of course I/they have. That’s life. We’re supposed to change.”