“We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”
– T.S. Eliot
This is for anyone who’s ever felt behind in life or imagined more for themselves at this point.
I, for one, have definitely had this experience and the more I get to know other people the more I realize that everyone has struggled with this at some point in their lives. I used to think the reason I got so behind in life was because I’m unable to change. Sure, we’ve all heard people sprout words of wisdom on how you should embrace change because it’s good and if we don’t change we don’t grow. I know everything I’m supposed to do but, honestly, that doesn’t always equate to action in my life. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you look at all how far you still need to go rather than how far you’ve already come. And as for my fear of change? My journals revealed I changed without even realizing it.
I don’t think when you change it’s this big event and you instantly transform into a whole different person. I think it’s more gradual than that and it’s something most people – including yourself – might not even realize at the time. But I guarantee if you look at any of your older writing you’ll see another version of yourself.
And instead of getting bogged down by everything you feel you still need to accomplish, celebrate everything you’ve already achieved – even the little things. Celebrate finishing that test today, or that meal you cooked yourself, or even just showing up. I know it sounds silly because these little things seem more like daily tasks than accomplishments but it’s these little things we do every day that gradually molds our personal development.
The writing you keep in your journals of years past is a record of your metamorphosis. If you gather all your entries of the joyful days, the crappy days and even the particularly uneventful days together, you’ll realize that it maps out a timeline of your gradual growth into who you are today.
One of the indications that you’ve changed is when the voice in your past notebooks feels foreign to you. It’s this weird combination of relating to your writing but also feeling detached from it. The best way I can describe it is like entering a house you used to live in but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. Eventually our past entries enter the realm of storytelling because the person who wrote it seems too far removed from who we are now.
I like to think that’s what Eliot was getting at when he said “at every meeting we are meeting a stranger” because this metamorphosis is universal; we are all constantly changing without even realizing it. I think this idea is kind of bittersweet but it has definitely helped me personally with my relationships with other people. If we are all constantly evolving every day into someone else then relationships are a constant effort on both parties to re-acquaint ourselves with one another. And when we do inevitably grow apart from some people and their actions become foreign to us, we shouldn’t hold it against them. Who we’re looking at is no longer present because what we think we know of them is actually only our memory of them and vice versa. These former selves live on in our past journal entries. And as much as I advocate keeping your old journal entries I don’t think the past a place to live in but rather a place to visit from time to time to gain perspective on much we’ve changed.