Pen Pal Project
September 22, 2015
Has anyone said that to you recently? What was your reaction? Did you think the person meant it as a compliment or a criticism?
I ask because I’m interested, in life generally, and in the book I’m writing, in how we construct our identities. And I think that many of us resist the idea that we change. Sure, we change the music we like and the fashions we admire, but our fundamental personalities don’t change, right? Identity isn’t fashion. Identity is fixed.
In fact, the opposite seems to be true. The current neuroscience research suggests that we are constantly evolving, or, as Dan Gilbert puts it in his delightful TED talk: “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.”
I accept that this is true intellectually, but until recently, I’ve resisted it on an emotional level. I’ve always found the idea that people change to be quite threatening. What if you invest all your energy into a relationship – a marriage, a friendship, a work partnership – and that person changes? How can you control that? How can you protect your investment?
You can’t, obviously, which I learned the hard way on several fronts.
When you go through divorce, people tell you that you’ve changed. Usually the person who no longer wants to be in a relationship with you will tell you that (and it isn’t intended as a compliment). But friends will tell you that as well. Some will mean it as an encouragement, as in the end of your marriage will allow you to grow further into the person you are meant to be. Some people don’t, as in, I can see why your marriage fell apart, because you are one of those people who changes, but I’m not, so my marriage is safe.
And because you are, in fact, changing, some of those people will remain friends, and some of them won’t.
Which brings me to the question you asked in your last letter: “Have you via your writing or otherwise ever not been liked?” Yes, I have. And it sucked.
But I’m getting better at dealing with it. Because I’m changing.
Read Reva’s last letter here:
Follow the entire correspondence here: