One of the things I’ve struggled with is how much I’ve changed over time.

In our political conversations, one of the most obvious examples of how our discourse in this country is biased towards the conservative is the ridicule and scorn a politician will encounter for changing her mind. Now, there are some good reasons for this; voters want a person to be predictable, so they can tell what it is they’re voting for ahead of time. But our discourse tends to carry this to extremes and have a fetish for consistency. We imply or simply state that someone who has taken a complex, nuanced, or context-dependent stance is unreliable, or “doesn’t really believe in anything.”

On the other hand, politicians sometimes have to “walk back” an incendiary comment rather than “doubling down” – notice that we have specialized language for this! When they do a walk back, it can be seen by more ideological members of their base as weak, but on the whole, I’m glad that we have some limits to our discourse. It shouldn’t be okay to say hateful things, especially for people making public policy. Obviously, in some situations, change is necessary.

My inner skeptic – in this case, acting as my inner annoyance – loves to suggest that I’m just a stereotype, I’m “just” rebelling against the way I was raised, or whatever. Most annoying is when it suggests to me that because I’ve gone through major changes in my life, including a change of religion and tremendous ideological shifts away from the way I was raised, I can’t be authentically anything. If I’ve changed once, maybe I’ll change again; maybe in twenty years I’ll be the stereotype of a Fox-watching red-blooded Amurkan who wants to shoot all those crazy librul types like who I am right now.

Okay, so that’s theoretically a possibility. I’m not willing to cut myself off from that because being unable to change means being unable to grow, to learn from one’s experiences and evolve in response to them. (Fred Clark at Slacktivist has described this closing-off of possibilities and the resultant personal atrophy quite well, but I can’t find a link at the moment. Anyone know where that went?)

And there are good reasons that people in their teens and twenties can go through major personal revolutions – they’re in the process of becoming independent adults. For some of us who came to Paganism during this part of our lives, myself included, that journey was a long one and included leaving a toxic religious environment. Dealing with that necessitates a lot of change.

Finally I looked back at the things that happened in my life before, during, and after some of these major changes. I realized that anyone who had been through what I’d been through and hadn’t changed as a result would probably have something wrong with her. Faced with the challenges I’ve been through, it’s been the right and natural response for me to learn, change, and grow.

So I’ve made peace with how I’ve changed over time. How do you understand your own changes?

One thought on “Change over time

  1. Somewhat corny story: once I got a fortune from a fortune cookie which said “love not only who you are, but also who you may become.” Normally I find adages a little annoying (especially inside FORTUNE cookies), but that one hit me where I live. At the time I was beginning to consider leaving the religion in which I was raised, a difficult and fraught decision which took some time. The fortune became a reminder to acknowledge myself as an individual and to understand that the only person I could ultimately answer to was myself, that I was in charge of my own peace.

    I still have that slip of paper somewhere.

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