Change as a Constant

It’s the new year, and naturally, I’m looking back at how I’ve changed, and also, how I haven’t.

I used to joke and say that I never change at all. I’ve realized this isn’t remotely true.

Yes, some of my traits have remained the same: I’m still stubborn, opinionated, and creative.

But I’ve also changed drastically, in that I’ve learned to accept change and stop denying its existence. I’ve learned to adapt to the world rather than force it to adapt to me. I’ve learned to stop thinking so much and acting so little. I’ve also learned that feelings are not to be demonized, rather, they are there to guide actions and provide feedback on what could be done better, and what can and should change.

Change is the only constant in the universe. You shed skin cells, new ones grow. A hair falls out. Another takes its place. Physically, we all are constantly changing. It’s said that the body replaces all of its cells every 7 years. While this is not an exact fact (most neurons will stay with you your entire life, and bone cells live up to around 30 years) the point stays that we are vastly different people, mentally and physically, than we were a few years ago. Our skin and organs get replaced, our bodies grow and change in shape, and of course, our minds are different than they once were.

The philosopher, Heraclitus, once said, “The same man cannot step in the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man.” This always stuck with me. My body has changed, my brain has changed, my environment has changed. Then, what is it that keeps us constant? What determines who the individual is, and how do we know that we are still the same (albeit changed) person after a few years time?

I used to say “To change is to die,” believing stubbornly that if you change at all, you bury your past self, and that person from the past is irrelevant. But I’ve realized that we need to look at our pasts an learn from mistakes we’ve made, times we’ve triumphed, and look for patterns within ourselves. We need to look at the common threads, in terms of how we have always perceived and processed the world, traits we’ve always held, and interests that have remained constant.

Our pasts can never truly be buried. Our pasts cannot be fully ignored. Good times and traumas alike shape our current personas and experiences, to some degree. It’s theorized that what defines the self is how your past has shaped your perceptions and responses, as every action has a cause, and every habit has some sort of basis in the past.

Instead of letting our past mistakes fill us with regret, we really do need to treat them as “learning experiences.” Regret is something that holds us back. You can’t change the past, so why fret about it? Learning to let go of my attachment to my past, and learning to not let it define me in the present and future, is one of the biggest changes I’ve made to myself and how I live my life.

Change can be scary. Change can be sudden, or change can be something that you’ve put off for too long. Either way, realizing when to move on, and more importantly, how to move on, is the most important skill I would say I’ve learned this year.