Friday, November 6, 2009

Changing Faces - 11-11-09 Editor's Column

This may sound a little odd, but every now and then I become curious about the people I went to school with and what they have gone on to do.

Thanks to the social phenomenon that is Facebook, I have the opportunity to see what many of them are up to, which is a lot of fun for me because it allows me to continue growing with people I’ve known for years, share my experiences and discuss theirs with them.

The most interesting thing about this for me, however, are the ways in which we have changed, which leads me to consider just how much time and experience (among a slew of other factors) impact who we become.

For instance, the individuals we may have never gotten along with back then might be people we look forward to talking to or hearing about today.

In the same regard, some of our closest friends may be people we now hardly speak to, for whatever reasons.

It is for this very reason I believe the statement “people don’t change,” to be false in its assumption.

The reality, if you ask me, is that people change significantly in life.

I know I have changed significantly over the last few years and continue to do so.

The best example I can provide is the way I handle stress.

Before going to college, I was a pretty anxious individual. If I got stressed, I would - for lack of a better term - freak out. However, I realized that I needed to eliminate the pressure I was putting on myself from my life. So, I decided it was time for a change.

I think for many of us, there is a deep desire to implement changes in our lives that we feel will benefit us and those around us.

But, (and here’s the rub) some of us lack the commitment to make these changes, which creates a situation similar to watching television without a remote: Some of us don’t mind getting up to change the channel to what we want to watch while others will settle for something they don’t like out of laziness.

That said, instead of suggesting people don’t change, I think it’s more appropriate to suggest some people don’t want to change.

The potential is there for anyone do something different than what they are doing right now; the only difference between the ones that do and the ones that don’t is commitment.

Still, another thing I’ve noticed is we often don’t give people from our past the benefit of the doubt when considering whether or not they have changed since we last encountered them.

It’s the typical sitcom moment where the main character meets with a face from the past and tries to get said person to behave the way he or she used to or to get said person to go to a former favorite hangout, only to find a glimpse of the individual they knew before.

It’s easy to say you don’t do this, but everyone does it - sometimes without even thinking about it.

Part of me thinks we do this because we want to take pride in the changes we have accomplished in our own lives by assuming the people we’ve known have experienced none of the same changes since we last saw them. It seems a bit selfish, but I think it is more out of affirmation for ourselves than anything.

Then, another part of me thinks we do this because we never believed some of the people from our pasts could change and by acknowledging the people in front of us as different, we admit our own fault in how we perceived those people.

To be honest, there was a time when I wanted to be right about the people I used to know, if only so I could say “I told you so,” about their situations or their accomplishments. However, the primary reason we seek change in our lives is to better ourselves, for whatever reason.

I realized there was far too much potential out there to simply expect certain things from people or to think I knew the paths peoples’ lives would take them.

And if there’s anything I’ve learned in my short years, it is that people are capable of extraordinary - often unexpected - things. Conversely, they also have the potential to need help when we might have expected them to be set on the right path in life.

The point is, we don’t decide who changes and how, nor is it up to us to determine whether or not those changes suit us. Instead, I think it is our duty to see the potential in our friends, neighbors and those faces from the past and be open to accepting the changes that might have taken place or nurture the changes that could take place.

After all, it’s easier to seek and find change when you have someone who believes you can achieve it and even easier to maintain and build upon it when you encounter people who believe you were capable in the first place.

The next time you see the potential in the lives around you, enjoy the view.

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