I’ve changed, and I’m still the same

Two pictures of me taken almost four decades apart. So much has changed. So much is still the same.

The last few years brought a period of melting down just about every part of my life followed by a slow transformation into something new on many levels.

This has involved so much change that I sometimes feel like I hardly recognize myself.

And yet, I am still the same person I’ve always been with all the same faults and quirks and rough edges. If anything, I’m more me now than I’ve ever been.

As these two pictures—taken almost four decades apart—show, I’ve changed a lot. My hair is much shorter now, my skin has a few more lines, my ears have been pierced, my hair has much more grey blending in with the brown these days. But it’s still the same face, with the same bone structure, the same eyes, and the same nose as it’s always been.

In fact, I’m even more of some of these traits than I was then. My freckles are not only still there, but have gotten even more prominent over the years. My small bone structure and short stature are even more obvious as an adult than it was as a child because the comparison to my peers is that much larger.

I’ve changed, and I’m still the same.

The same is true of my personality. I was often in trouble as a child because I was happier playing by myself or reading a book than going outside to play with others. I was unusually content with solitude at that age.

I still am. My need for solitude has only gotten stronger over the years, and I’m still as happy as can be with long, uninterrupted times alone with my reading, writing, and creative work. It still frequently makes other people uncomfortable.

I am told that I was a very bossy child. When I would actually play with my younger brother, apparently I would not only try to tell him what to do and what to say in whatever we were doing, I would also tell him what to think while he was saying and doing those things!

That bossy streak hasn’t gone away. I am still much too quick to try to jump in fix things that seem to need fixing (in my opinion), and I am still too quick to argue with those who don’t agree with me to try to change their minds.

My mom used to tell me that there were two kinds of people in the world—those who were good at giving and those who were gracious at receiving—and then there is me, who is lousy at both.

Yep, you guessed it. That hasn’t changed either. I’m still not as generous as I would like to be, and I am still not very good at receiving in the kind of gracious way that becomes a gift back to the giver.

I’m even more stubborn now than I used to be. I’m still not a nice person. I am that much quieter (some would say secretive) and that much less tolerant of crowds and noise.

I’ve changed, and I’m still the same.

This used to really upset me (and some days it still does). I thought the whole point of life was to get rid of all those things about myself that looked like faults or that other people disliked. And on that score, I was failing badly!

I was reassured recently by a blog post called “The Least of God’s Holy People” by Chaplain Mike at the Internet Monk. He uses an extended quote from Henri Nouwen and the biblical story of Jacob to show that what I’m experiencing is not unusual. Even in these giants of the faith who experienced such transformation, they remained who they were, with all of the same issues and quirks and rough edges.

In fact, he puts it this way when considering the matriarchs and patriarchs of our faith that we read about in the Bible:

“Perhaps the best way to say what actually took place is that they became more themselves. They grew into more mature versions of themselves. Flaws of character were not erased or reversed or covered up. Rather, the lines, blemishes, and imperfections that once made them appear unattractive slowly became set into integral marks of quirky beauty and character.”

It’s had me reconsidering my assessment of myself and the ways I’ve changed and the ways I haven’t. In every case, the most profound changes have not come from eradicating these rough edges of mine, but have instead come from embracing them.

Yes, I have a much greater need for solitude than most people find comfortable, but in embracing that and honoring that part of me, I have discovered that I have more to give when I am around others because I’ve taken the time for solitude that I need.

Yes, I am still too quick to “fix” and to “problem solve,” but embracing that tendency has made it easier for me know when to use that tendency effectively and when to bite my tongue than it was when I tried to ignore that this is how I function.

Yes, I’m still stubborn, but embracing that trait has allowed me to put that stubbornness to use in reaching my goals instead of trying to suppress it where it leaked out in shadow forms that got in my way.

I’ve changed, and I’m still the same.

I used to think that was failure, but now I’m thinking that perhaps the deepest transformation possible is that of learning to be who we are and to be ok with that—rough edges and all.

How have you changed over the years? How are you still the same? How do you feel about that?

4 thoughts on “I’ve changed, and I’m still the same

  • March 26, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    First, I am so grateful for finding your blog, as your posts are so often such a mirror for me.

    Just today I discovered something about myself that I had never realized. As you know, when that happens the feeling just washes over you. It is as if you can “feel” the truth; it is that alive. Certainly, it was not a pleasant fact but it was really me. It is a trait that has evolved somewhat but it is, as your post so beautifully shows, a part of who I am and have always been. Because I could admit that this has always been a characteristic, I discovered a way through a situation rather than “putting up with it” or going around it. The situation is no longer what it was but I am still me, the same and not the same.

    Again, thank you for such a thoughtful and poignant post.

    • March 26, 2014 at 9:36 pm

      Oh, I do know that feeling, and I love how you describe it: “It is as if you can ‘feel’ the truth; it is that alive.” You’ve captured the experience perfectly there!

      I am glad my post was helpful to you in being able to embrace this part of who you are that you have discovered. I am delighted to hear that you were able to find a way through the situation and, in so doing, change the situation. I’m always amazed at just how powerful acceptance can be, and I am very grateful to you for sharing your story today. It has encouraged me greatly just when I needed it!

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your experience with this very thing!

  • March 27, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Oh, this is so very familiar! Seems we’re cut from a very similar cloth, Kenetha, on parallel journeys. I’ve found that the process of discovering and embracing aspects of myself which have been there all along, but hidden or drowned out by others’ expectations or my own perceived needs at one time, is ongoing. It may not be there in the middle of a crisis or major life change, but as things settle down to a “new normal”, the sense – realization, remembering – that who I was I still am (and maybe moreso!) floats into view with a centering effect. I am the constant in my life, and the older I get the more I appreciate the child I was, the woman I’ve become, and the friend I am to myself.

    • March 27, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      Thanks so much, Sylvia! It’s always so reassuring to hear from others who are on a similar journey. I appreciate your point that this is often hard to see in the middle of a crisis or major change, but it does become more evident as things settle into whatever our new “normal” winds up being. I have found this to be true also, but I’d never stopped to consciously acknowledge that piece of the experience. Thank you for mentioning it!

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