Yesterday was a dear friend's birthday. The celebration, which is always fun, this year involved dinner at a local sushi restaurant and, once we'd all gone to her home, a game of Cards Against Humanity. Photography ensued, of course, and this morning, she posted some of the results on Facebook and tagged people in the photos in which we appeared.
A couple of people I haven't seen in years, one of whom was a fairly good friend in high school (though we've drifted apart in the past dozen years), remarked that in their estimation, I haven't changed a bit since we graduated from high school in 2001. I thought that was a rather odd thing to say; after all, I've been able to see the changes in myself as they've gradually happened. Surely they should be easier to notice for people who haven't seen me face-to-face in several years.
Granted, the people in my family don't tend to age particularly quickly, and even when I was in my mid-twenties, people (usually older than me, but sometimes also people who were about my age) occasionally used to ask me what high school I went to, and they were genuinely stunned when I revealed my actual age—the looks on their faces were usually rather amusing. :) But I really have changed. On a purely aesthetic level, I see the places near my eyes where wrinkles are starting to form. I see the small changes in my figure—I've gained weight and then lost (most of) it again when I consistently resumed the eating and activity patterns that I tend to fall into when I'm not depressed. My hair's a bit redder, and because it has more of a tendency to curl now than it used to, it's still as long as it was twelve years ago, but it doesn't always look like it is. I've been known to wear a bit of lipstick and nail polish on occasion, which I never did in high school, and I had my ears pierced when I was in my second year of university. I'm even a couple of centimetres taller than I was in 2001.
Mentally, the changes are a bit more dramatic. I've developed my mind in ways that I couldn't possibly have anticipated back then. I'm better at analysis. I'm becoming a competent teacher, thanks to my volunteer work. My spiritual life has changed—for the better, I might add. The way that I live it now has allowed me to heal some old wounds, and although I do still find it a bit frustrating at times to be both Pagan and Christian, the resulting mental gymnastics have been worth performing, because they force me to figure out precisely what matters the most. I have fallen in love three times—once with someone who proved not to be worth it, and his effect on my life was devastating, but it also helped me to stop myself making a horrible mistake. I have fallen deeply into depression, and developed a particularly stubborn form of eating-disordered behaviour, and then gradually come out of them, particularly over the course of the past couple of years, though I do still have relapses of both from time to time. My sense of humour has gotten better, my fondness for diverse forms of music has really blossomed, my love of literature has waned and then been rekindled in a big way, and my writing skills have dramatically improved. I've picked up a fondness for The X-Files, The Vicar of Dibley, The Big Bang Theory, and the recently-cancelled Touch. I am every bit as stubborn as I used to be, but I now have the confidence and the intelligence to make better assessments and decisions than I had when I was eighteen.
So, yes, I've definitely changed since high school. And while my acquaintances may have meant for their words to be compliments—after all, it's quite common for people to believe that getting older is something horrible that is to be feared and avoided—I have to admit that my first instinct was not to perceive them as such. Change is good, and just like everyone else, I've been through a lot of changes in the past twelve years. And as painful as some of those changes have been, there is precious little that I would actually do differently, given the chance.