Opinion: On Change (Again)

When someone would say to me, you have changed, my immediate feeling was a need to refute their observation. To be discovered to have changed often sounded like an accusation. I suspect this sentiment owes much to my Ghanaian upbringing, where it is rare for one to make the exclamation, “Eh, you’ve changed!” as a form of compliment. It was thus difficult to think to accept the description to myself from a non-defensive position. I suppose I imagined myself as some sort of stone, of incredible immutable constitution, thus ever unfaltering. But even diamonds alter––they are the result of severe changes made through a significant measure of time. My reflection here, to spare you a game of “guessing,” is on that negative regard to change in concern with one’s sense of self. More specifically, the notion that to have appeared transformed in essence is a negative thing. If one’s substance is not crystalized, how can one say that the obscure is sharply distinctive? This notion that somehow who you are today is the same person you were at the beginning of the year seems absurd when it is quite obvious that one is altered daily. But if one finds oneself completely unaltered by one’s experiences is that really anything to be proud of?  Does it not suggest that one is rather unreflective? Is it not arrogant, or even naive, then, to think that one does not change, when everything suggest otherwise? 

Having arrived at the belief that you do not know yourself, you grow roots in a transitioning perception that your sense of self is like your views on the sea, incoherent. It means therefore that you will be surprising yourself daily: for you do not know, fully, what you are capable of. But does one really feel surprise when one starts to learn to expect everything? I think yes; to know something to be possible and to find oneself in the web of its experience is not the same thing. Knowledge is not wisdom. When one begins to understand that the nature of things is change, and one begins to look on this attribute of life favorably, one becomes more natural, more “unrefined.” You no longer feel you ought to quarrel with the rain, when it is more pleasing to play in it. You begin to see the lessons in evolving, in not thinking that all that there is and all that there will be is a simple, limited perspective. You calmly expect and accept the unfortunate and you begin to read that not only is a nightmare interesting in of itself, but also possibly that which make a fairytale believable. 

When last I wrote here an opinion on change, I also held the notion that an individual could not affect the world much, a view I no longer subscribe to. So my thinking, in someways, have changed since I last wrote on the topic. A recent talk with a workmate encouraged me to dig out the diary I kept at 19. I was curious to recall the sort of person I was at that final teen age. Reading my very very dramatized entries on what I dignified significant and silly was often laughable. The verses and lyrics, which I had penned down every few pages were quite awful, and very embarrassing. It was not difficult to see that I have changed: not entirely for the better and  not entirely for the worse. But the seams of what I have now become were traceable in those pages. Reflecting on my reading, I realized that it is not at all surprising that I am not entirely my 19 year old self. How could it be so when at present I have made discoveries in myself  which I did not even suspect at the beginning of the year; when things that sat heavily on my mind in February now hardly brush my thoughts; when things that frightened me last July, I now chuckle at. It seems that the experiences that life blesses us with are transitioning hues through which life is better appreciated. Hence to be natural is to understand that so much more is unknown than known, and what one is today is not a fixed destination, but a progressive one. Thus what is horrific is not the discovery that one is not what one assumed oneself to be, but that one actually believed oneself fully known and, astoundingly, unchangeable.
Happy 4th of July,
jane

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