I woke in bits, like all children, piecemeal over the years. I discovered myself and the world, and forgot them, and discovered them again.
It can be humbling looking at things you wrote before, long ago and far away. Whether this is in a classical form, like an old journal, or something more newfangled and modern, like Facebook memories.
Sometimes it’s humbling because the person you were believed truly silly things. I find myself wincing whenever I look back on times before I knew some crucial piece of information that transformed my beliefs. Whether this was a piece of science, or something that was going on that I didn’t know about, or even how or why something could be offensive.
But just as many times, I find it humbling to look back not because I’ve changed. But because I haven’t. This is particularly striking when I’m writing about something I’ve just thought that feels like an epiphany… only to realize I’ve had that epiphany multiple times, at different points in my life. Every time this feels like a new occurrence — because it’s attached itself to a novel situation, a new context. But it isn’t really new.
And instead what seems new is a form of Groundhog’s Day, learning the same lessons over and over again, albeit from a slightly different angle each time.
I comfort myself by reminding myself that the depth of a lesson matters, too — not just the variety of lessons. But it’s still humbling.
Anyway, if this happens to you, too, you’re in good company. These things move in cycles, even if it’s easy to forget. Because the cycles can be awfully expansive. And life is long. And it takes a lot longer to find yourself and to understand yourself than most people like to admit.