“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE)
You were not born to be some convenient, rigid, fixed identity. You were born to discover your true self. And to discover your true self, you must embrace change. You must accept that what was true for you yesterday might not be true for you today.
This is easier to see when you’re a kid.
For the first eighteen years of your life, you were in a state of constant flux – both inside and out. You got taller. Your face changed shape. Your voice got deeper. One day you liked one thing, the second you liked another, and on the third, you couldn’t believe you ever gave either of them time of day.
Everything about you seemed to change like the weather, and – for the most part – everybody was fine with this.
Until you hit your early twenties. For some reason, at this point in your life, you were suddenly expected to stop changing.
“Stop subverting our expectations!”
We silently encourage people – around the age of twenty-three – to grind to a halt that constant change that defines our first couple of decades, no matter how they might feel on the inside. By this point in your life – we seem to suggest, if only indirectly – one really ought to have had the time to figure out who they’re going to be… for the rest of their life. It’s the end of the line, as far as self-discovery goes.
You are permitted to continue changing after this – there’s no law against it, after all – but even if people appear okay with it, there will be an unmistakable glint of suspicion in their eye. Who do you think you are? We thought you were this one thing, we thought we knew what to expect of you, we thought we could put you in a little box in our mind…
It’s really fucked up. But it all boils down to control, really. People want you to be predictable. When you’re not, it puts them about.
I’d say that – assuming you’re not doing anything genuinely deviant – that’s far more their problem than yours.
To live is to change, to change is to live
The truth is that you are changing – both inside and out – from the moment you are born to the moment you die. Just because your twenties are over, nature doesn’t put the handbrake on.
As every second goes by, you are a slightly different person. Cells die, and are reborn. Perhaps you liked Megadeth in your twenties, but you prefer Mozart in your forties -this is exactly what is supposed to happen. But if you stifle this change because you don’t want to inconvenience people… well, you might be alive in body, but you will be dead in spirit.
When a river is allowed to flow, all is well – we have a healthy river. When it is not allowed to flow, it stagnates. It becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and parasites. Day by day it becomes more and more toxic.
We are no different than a river – when we allow ourselves the freedom to adapt to change – both inside and outside – we are living a rich life. We are growing. We are embracing who we really are.
When we resist change, we stagnate. We die inside.