Last year I was on Hilton Head Island visiting a friend from college. I am not great at keeping in touch with people, even on Facebook. However, some people are forever on my mind and in my heart. This friend is one of those people. If she and her family ever needed anything, I would be there in whatever way that I could.
We grew up together in college. It is where we learn how to be the people that we are today. We had many discussions about that back then. So many of those times, those conversations, came flooding back to me during our visit.
It was also a reminder that there are times that life is, well, life. My friend was diagnosed with MS. It must have been about ten years ago. Although I vaguely recall the FB messages that went back and forth, I was one of the people with whom she shared her diagnosis.
I was honored that she chose me to share that diagnosis, though admittedly, I was drunk when I read and responded to those messages those years ago. But, even with that, I was ready to fight the monsters, wherever they may have been.
I saw perseverance, love, and a need to be seen, not as someone with MS, but as the person she knows herself. She felt the need to ‘warn’ me before meeting in person that she had put on some weight. I think maybe general. I guess she didn’t feel like the person that I had once hiked, camped, and rollerbladed around campus with.
My response was to tell her that I love her no matter what and that life can be an asshole sometimes. I certainly can’t imagine what it would be like to have a diagnosis that affects every aspect of your physical life, like MS.
Although a year later, I think I can. I didn’t take the time to sit with the physical effects of psychological trauma and abuse. As a result, we are both fighting demons that we, nor anyone else, can see.
During our time together, she thanked me. She said that I reminded her of who she was.
What she said struck a chord with me.
Is trying to get back to who we were before (insert life-altering diagnosis here) really what we should be aiming for? What is wrong with the present-day us?
Yes, life can be an asshole, and lob some serious shit towards us, shit that changes us. And we don’t look like we used to or feel like we used to, and that is hard to deal with. We compare ourselves to others for the way we should look, feel, etc., but the person we are comparing ourselves to is that person of yesterday.
Was Yesterday Me better than Today Me? Or do I use that as a reason to be hard on myself? I am not sure. I used Yesterday Me to berate Today Me with Yesterday Me’s decision to drink six bottles of wine in one night instead of looking forward to Tomorrow Me’s options and how best to change those.
That Today Me vs. Yesterday Me comparison hobbles us more than anything else. And it can depend on what we are comparing. Today Me (sober me) is waaay better than Yesterday Me (drunk me). Yesterday Me (kickboxer, military) was in better physical health than Today Me when it comes to my physical health.
And comparing who you are now to who you once were will paralyze you and make you feel that you aren’t yourself anymore. It is the realization that life changes us. Whether that is because life is an asshole or that we just won the lottery, those things become the truth of who we are now, today, not yesterday.
You’re constantly evolving towards something, but we never reach that endpoint, but we have this illusion that you are the same person you were five years ago and 15 years ago, but… in fact, you are a different person, and if your seven-year-old self walked into the room right now, you would probably have more in common with a peer and a colleague like me than you would with your seven-year-old self, because you’ve actually changed quite a bit in that time.1
None of us can go back to who we were. We are who we are now, which is the way it should be because we are different. So simple to think that we get to be who we are in this moment, but it is so hard to do.
Also, realizing that we are who we are in this moment does not mean that we don’t have goals, that we don’t try to achieve something or challenge ourselves. It means that those goals and challenges may be more difficult or easier because of where we are now, today.
It all depends on where we are now, here today. I have never been this version of myself. You have never been this version of yourself either.
Brown, B. (Host). (2020, December 2). Brené with David Eagleman on The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Cadence13. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-david-eagleman-on-the-inside-story-of-the-ever-changing-brain/