It had been many years since I last visited the town where I grew up. Driving through local streets, it all seems so familiar yet, at the same time, foreign; like in a Back To The Future film. Some changes are subtle, others quite crude. I realize that it is not only that there are physical changes, but that it is also my perspective as an adult that had morphed; no longer seeing it through a child’s eye. Buildings, street signs, and shops – quite a few still look the same, yet, enough had been altered that I can no longer recognize it as if it was ever my town.
It brings a question to mind: what is “my”? Which leads to — what am “I”?
If someone had met me years ago, and then again today, how are the changes carved into me by the passing of time, by the many experiences life had graciously awarded me, and the resulting altered attitude, make me different? Some such people comment that I hardly changed; that I look much the same way, sound the same, feel the same. In some ways they may be right, yet, through my quite different perspective, I know my transformation had been significant. I am a ghost of my childhood’s embodiment, tinged by slivers of my teenage years. I am a morphed caterpillar that, years ago, spread his wings; yet, deep inside, I still carry my tender younger self, or is it all just a dream? A set of memories made of old photos yellowing in a family album? The more I consider this, the more awkward it appears to be. Was that kid from so many years ago really me? Can I claim any ownership over him? Do I even want to?
Day to day changes are hard to notice; transformation, even if indicated by milestones, is rarely a monumental or instant occurrence. Only when I take a journey in my mind, travel through time and meet the seven year old version of myself, things become perceptible. What I wished as a boy versus what I wish these days; what I believed so many years ago, and how much it had changed; all which I didn’t know that I didn’t know as a caterpillar, versus all that I realize I will never know, especially now that I approach fifty. Some days I am familiar to myself yet, at the same time, so alien, foreign and unknown; with so much more yet to discover. And maybe that is a good thing. Reb Nachman of Breslov is quoted to have said that, “One must never be old; neither an old saint nor an old follower. Being old is a vice; a man must always renew, begin and return and and get started anew.”
Learned from: Traveling through my childhood’s hometown