Is It OK to Assume People Never Change? (High School Reunions)

i-have-changed-t-shirtsOver the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to reconnect with several friends that I haven’t seen in a while (anywhere from 6 months to about 4 years ago). It’s been a whirlwind: not only has it been exciting and fun and refreshing, but because it was all so compacted and I had so many reunions to process, it’s only now that I have a few moments alone without some new adventure involving bits from my life long past looming in the near future that I have been able to really appreciate some of the little details from these encounters.

And no, as much as I’m sure you’re all thinking “What’s Ruby’s gripe now?” since I always seem to have one, I am actually NOT going to complain about the people, places, or things, nor am I going to criticize anybody or anything. I swear. Actually, meeting up with my old friends made me realize just how much I have truly missed them and the different dimensions and qualities they were able to inspire in me. I took a lot of numbers down, and have already started the process of reestablishing friendships. Still have a few left to go, but I’m confident that a few extra days won’t hurt. After all, they seemed to be as happy to see me as I was to see them, so they’re probably looking forward to my call as much as I’m looking forward to calling. Or maybe I’m just being a pig headed little shit who lives in la-la land and who doesn’t realize when people are just being nice because they don’t wanna cause shit when they’re in an enclosed space with you! Oh well, I guess time will tell on that one though :-p

ANYWAYS, back to my original point, which in all fairness I never actually started yet, so it isn’t so much as going back to it as it is starting it. Geez, if I’m not ranting, I tangentize like crazy, don’t I? (I know you were just dying for another Ruby Original Word lol). Ok, I’m done. The point is that meeting up with people who you haven’t seen can be a trip and half. Not only because you get to see all the ways in which they changed, but you get to see through their eyes exactly how you’ve changed dramatically (or absolutely not at all).

Physical changes are apparent. It's those inner changes that can't be captured by camera, or recognized in a moments glance
Physical changes are apparent. It's those inner changes that can't be captured by camera, or recognized in a moments glance

For example, while explaining to one of my best friends in high school that I was currently in school to become a psychologist, that I actually only went to post secondary at all because I knew this is what I wanted to do, she exclaimed “Ummm, you do know that to be a psychologist you have to LISTEN to people, don’t you? No, like really, really listen!” and began to laugh like crazy. She then enlisted the rest of the group to totally understand her POV by saying “like, do you SEE how much this girl has TALKED in the past few minutes, like nobody can even get a word in edgewise!” which was entirely untrue, by the way, but that’s not the point. The point is that, whether or not I was actually a big blabbermouth who would never be able to shut up long enough to ever hear somebody’s problems, let alone help them to help themselves work through it, this was her opinion of me. And this not-so-complimentary opinion wasn’t based on a 5 minute conversation that we had at this party: otherwise, I would have been pretty damned pissed. After all, I have had 25 years on terra firma, and I have done a lot of self growth, intentionally as well as just through the passage of time or from encountering certain situations.

But the issue is: at one point in time, specifically when we were the best of friends, my self-centeredness and my natural gift of gab were two things that definitely would have hindered me from ever being able to be an effective councilor. Now, I have to take this time to tell you that I have always been an amateur councilor. People from all walks of life, whether my friends or relative strangers, always sought my advice on just about anything. Even things I knew nothing about, and yet for some reason my way with words and my natural understanding of human behaviour and thought and feeling allowed me to effectively offer advice which helped people to get through from point A (crisis) to point B (resolution). I must admit, of course, that I had to be in the mood to be helpful, otherwise I was deaf and mute to any personal issue outside of my own (what can I say? Teenage girls aren’t well known for their ability to focus on anything other than themselves. The fact that I managed at times I think says a lot about me! lol).

But the point is, my old best friend had no idea about the self growth I had made over the years, about all the changes, personal struggles, and tough life lessons I had learned to make it to this point in life. And to the point where I decided that psychology is where I belong. My current friends, those who are part of my “new Ruby” life, often marvel at my uncanny natural ability at all things psychological, especially my ability to help them through what they’re going through even though I am nowhere near a professional at it (disclaimer always given, and normally ignored, before I offer my opinions and assistance). But how could she possibly know any of that? It’s not like we’ve kept in touch whatsoever, and she most certainly does not have psychic or other abilities that would allow her to just “know” these things inherently. And of course, because I was surrounded by high school mates from my old life, I had reverted slightly into my old roles. Especially after a few drinks had entered my system. At least on the surface.

They do, but when overused they can be more of a hinderance than a help
They do, but when overused they can be more of a hinderance than a help

So I had to ask myself (not at the time: at the time I took the mature road and reverted back to 16 year old Ruby…first reaching out to members of the group to find examples of times where she was SO wrong and I was SO awesome and supportive, finally giving her and her commentary about me the cold shoulder and silent treatment for a few minutes until the subject changed, where I then continued on the “old school Ruby” kick, totally being 16 year old me, all while thinking “screw them, I know I’m different, I have nothing to prove!”…lol, certainly one of my more proud moments :-p) how should we, as reasonable and mature adults, deal with these “you-USED-to-be-like-that-so-I-SO-know-you-are-still!” situations. It’s not like it’s a rare occurrence, and it’s not like only the ignorant or dumb refer to old memories of old school friends when trying to converse with them in new school settings. Especially when you’re reminiscing about old times. It’s perfectly natural, and I would say pretty automatic, to do this, because if every time we encountered something we had seen in the past we treated it as though it was something brand new and started off on a fresh slate, quite frankly we would never get a damn thing done because we would spend all of our time relearning everything from teeth-brushing to looking both ways before crossing the road.

But…there has got to be something we can do not to take those old school generalizations too far. How do we effectively attribute SOME old generalizations without marring the current person, their current character, ideals, beliefs, and attitudes? How do we stop ourselves from ridiculing an old friend for their current path based on their old behaviours? And how can we tell for sure that somebody has actually changed, that they aren’t just talking shit, being their same ol’ full of it selves? And, here is a very real possibility, what if we just THINK we have changed so dramatically, but in fact this old friend IS being extremely perceptive in seeing that we’re no different than we were back in the days? This is a tricky one, as we’re not talking about reconnecting over an extended time. We’re talking about a matter of a few hours, in a totally non-intimate setting. I mean, does it even matter in that case whether or not we have the right impressions that somebody has changed or not?

*sigh*

Either way, this one friend is going to be one of the people I reconnect with in the near future. Hopefully, over the course of a few meetings over lunch or dessert we can relearn on another, see exactly what about us has remained entirely unchanged, and what parts are like night and day. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Anybody ever have this problem? How did you deal? Or do you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill? Have you ever thought you had changed some aspect of you a great deal only to find out that nobody but you thought it was true? Did you take it to be that the rest of the world is crazy, or that you have to take a VERY good look in the mirror and reassess and re evalutate?

There’s a whole lotta thought for your Monday morning! Typical Classic Ruby, always overanalyzing before the week even begins!! :-p

Cheers

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5 Comments

  1. Going to my 5 year high school reunion showed me that i serious never changed at all. not that i was trying to but i thiought i was less agressive but I still made them jump sometimes, which showed me i am that way still. but your opinion says that maybe that is differnt about me but they still think i’m the same. now that Ive read this i’m gonna think about it again

    Like

  2. Wow it’s amazing because this happens to me all the time i just never thought of it as being something. But its true! Next time I meet up with an old friend i think I’ll think twice about prejuging them.

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  3. @ Ponderings Chick
    Thank you very much! And the Demi Moore picture threw me for a loop…she is a real life version the Ugly Ducking transformed into the beautiful Swan!

    @ Dlite
    You never know. I guess to a large extent it could be a little bit from column A, a little bit from column B. You may have changed as far as aggressiveness, however you may just naturally be a very powerful woman who will always intimidate other women because they aren’t used to interacting with a woman who is such a natural force. But the key is your happiness…as long as you are happy with yourself and with your life, as long as your behaviours and personality traits are not a hindrance, who cares if you haven’t changed! Just love you and your quirks, girl!

    @ Lina Lee
    For sure! I guess overall that’s more so the big take home message I wanted everyone to get..great minds think alike!!

    Like

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