People Change

“We knew from the start that
Things fall apart, intentions shatter
She like that shit don’t matter
When I get home get at her”

“Contemplating war, niggas I was cool with before
We used to score together, Uptown copping the raw….But uh….
a thug changes, and love changes
and best friends become strangers….word up”

People change. Ask my wife, she’ll tell you I’ve changed. I’m not the person she met back in 2001, nor the person she married in 2003. I’m not the same guy that I was when we bought a home in 2008. Hell, in her eyes I’m not the same dude she rang in 2016 with. I’ve changed. I admit it.

As humans, very few of us embrace change. No, I don’t know if that is actually true, but it sounds like it should be. I swear I’ve heard sayings like “people fear what they don’t understand” and “people are afraid of change” at least a million times. It strikes me that this would be especially true in regards to relationships, whether they be romantic or platonic. And, it’s tough when people change around us, especially if that change pulls us apart, or if the change results in that person becoming someone you don’t like, agree with, or can no longer find common ground with. It happens. It’s part of life. But what can you do? Is it possible to change someone back to the person you loved? And if that is not possible, how do you deal with that? Again, what do you do?

1. Understand

First, I think we need to understand that change is natural and necessary. The picture of ourselves, that we create, is a work in progress. The story of who we are is a living document. In 1985 – 1986 I wanted to be Dwight Gooden, obviously minus the cocaine addiction. I wanted to pitch in the Major Leagues and I identified myself as a baseball player, specifically a pitcher. That was who I was from the age of 8 until around 13, at which point I gravitated toward basketball, and pictured myself as Scottie Pippen (I knew I was no Michael Jordan). My dreams and ambitions shifted and I saw myself differently. No longer was I a baseball player, a pitcher, instead I was a basketball player. I was going to work hard, be very fortunate, and one day play in the NBA.

By the time I was 18-19 another shift occurred. My dreams of the NBA were slowly fading away, replaced by a love of hard-core rap music. Yes, I was a rapper. I was an artist. I threw myself into that dream as hard as I’d thrown myself into those that came before. My identity followed. By the time I was 21, I was just trying to survive. I was a survivor. I identified with struggle. Fast forward a couple of years and I was a father and husband. Fast forward further and you’ll find me as the small business owner. For the record, I was never really any of those things. They are certainly part of my life, but they don’t define me. They never did. If you were to ask me today, the only word I could muster in terms of applying a label to myself and who I am is “creative”, and I have no clue where that’s going to take me, or if that label will stick.

I think part of the problem we have when people change is that our perception of people is based on how WE define them. We look at a person and say, I really like Isaiah, he’s a good dude, he’s a family man, he’s dedicated, he works hard, etc. We look at Isaiah and we define him and place an identity on him based off of OUR perception of Isaiah. But, do we really know if that’s how Isaiah defines himself? How DOES Isaiah define himself? Does Isaiah want to be defined based on your perception of him? Perhaps Isaiah is completely fucking miserable, but moves in a manner that hides his reality? Would that surprise you? Would you empathize with Isaiah if you knew that’s how he felt, if you knew how he defined himself or how he self-identifies? Would you be happy for your good friend Isaiah if he changed, and in essence was able to escape his misery, or at the very least, was able to muster the conviction to define himself… articulate and frame his own identity? Or, would you resent that “change” because…well…you’re fucking selfish. You want Isaiah to be who you want him to be….more on that in a minute.

Life changes, so do ALL living things. The first step, as with most things, is to understand and accept that as a fact. Isaiah, as much as you love him, was probably never who you perceived him to be. And, he’s supposed to change. We’re all supposed to live, learn and grow. And, sorry to break this to you but those three things (living, learning and growing) ultimately result in change.

2. Stop being Selfish….

Second, stop being selfish. It’s really that simple. Yes, you can resent change in others. That is your right. You don’t have to like everything that Isaiah does. You can look back and say “damn…I really miss the old Isaiah”! And, you can absolutely feel that way, swear off Isaiah, and tell anyone who’ll listen how you feel. But, understand that you’re being incredibly selfish. Again, assuming that Isaiah is really struggling with life here…what does that say about you? Isaiah’s fucked up….he’s going through a life changing time in his life….and you’re upset because Isaiah won’t be the guy you perceived him to be. In effect you look at the situation as though you’re losing “your Isaiah”, and that bothers you.

For the record, I’m not saying that it shouldn’t bother you. Again, change is hard. We don’t particularly like change, especially when change happens and we don’t understand why. I get it. But, a change in Isaiah is not a purposeful attack or betrayal of you. And, to look at it as such….is kind of shallow….and rather narcissistic. I think a pretty good general rule of thumb is don’t be a narcissist.

3. Make a Decision

Last but not least, make a decision. What ARE you going to do? Do you try to maintain the relationship, or let it go? I’ve recently gone through this scenario with one of my best friends. He’s going through a divorce and has completely changed over the course of the last year. He’s not the same person I met and “fell in love with” 10 years ago. I’m not hurt, I honestly just don’t like him from time to time. He says and has done things that I don’t agree with. What he values has changed, and is a stark departure from the values I was accustomed to him espousing. Personally, the way I define him has changed because my perception of him has changed. I have as many reasons as I need to end the relationship, and I’ve told him as much.

But, I’ve decided that he and the relationship are important to me. I understand that he’s going through the most difficult time of his life. I understand that his world has shattered and that he’s trying to sift through the pieces and put shit back together again…the best he knows how. And that it’s very likely that when he glues all of those little pieces back together, it probably won’t look like it did before. How could it? It is very likely that it will look nothing like it did before. And that’s OK. I’ve realized that my friend needs to change and that my holding on to the past is pointless and selfish. Who am I to resent my brother living his life and learning and growing during that process? If anything, as a friend and a self-identified brother of his, I should support him as he goes through this difficult time in his life, even if that means that on the back end of this, we’re not as close as we used to be. That’s life, things change.


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