Monday, October 19, 2015

Change Me Change

How do you look?

I know I'm getting old. It happens.

But I still have hair. And it's still the right color.

Got a bit of gray in my beard but I can grow one. A beard. Which is nice. Hides my face.

I waited all my life to grow a beard, waited all my life until I could, and I'd hate to go chin-bald right when I got enough fuzz to make it happen.

But I'm OK there. Things are decent on my underside. And like I said, I still got hair on the other end of my head too.

And I don't have to work any more, but I'm still interested in lots of things and there are many things I want to do, and quite a few of them are new. I hear that there is an endless supply of things to learn and do, so I don't feel rushed. They can come along as they will and I'll pick and choose. Grow into this or explore that or become the other thing.

As I see fit.

As I change. Morph. Grow. And age some more.

Though it isn't just me. I know people. Have known people. Have picked up friendships along the way, starting wayback, somewise back to second grade. That's about since age six in human years. At least that far back. And funny thing.

A lot of those people haven't changed hardly.

They got older and bigger and eventually got jobs and marriages and houses and wrinkles and stinky feet and drinking habits but mostly they became simply different versions of what they'd been as small children.

Even the people who moved to my home town as adults from outside somewhere. I had some friends like that too.

Ted Q and Steve S go way back, to the beginning of my gradeschool days. Ted: loud, boastful, obnoxious. Steve: funny, gregarious, needy of attention. Still the same. Even now. Steve has to be the center, Ted must have the best lie to tell. They both stayed. They became adults and assumed responsible positions and haven't grown much at all.

I just looked up John B. I first worked with him back in 1970. Dang. He's still painting the same paintings he was painting then, and the same ones he has been painting since. Still insists that he's "out of the loop". Still plays at being a farmer and a rugged individualist and a home mechanic and knows the correct answer to every question. Still wears the same clothes and has exactly the same ideas as he did then. Has been going to the same events with the same people for decades.

Similarly to Norman P, who used to be my boss, and John's boss at the time.

Twenty-five years after, I visited Norman and he was still at the same job, still complaining about the same things, and though John wasn't working there any more, he was complaining right along, and so was Nick F.

Nick came in from the outside. Raised in Gary, Indiana, settled in Bismarck, North Dakota as a mid-aged adult, and stopped growing right about then. The same twenty-five years after I was no longer working with Norman and John and Nick, Nick and John and Norman were still doing the same things, spending their days the same way, complaining about the same damn things.

But I wasn't.

I wasn't in that scene any more. No longer a figure in that diorama. No longer subject to the rules of that universe.

I had moved away. I had been other places and seen other things and met other people and faced different challenges and kept moving in that direction.

Instead of living in one smallish city in the middle of an anonymous state separated from the rest of the world by long reaches of flat grassland, I had lived in a large city and then a smallish one and then another smallish one and had, having finally finished one college degree, turned away from it and had pursued another in a totally different field. I had left fishing and photography and had picked up backpacking, and then bicycling, big time. Both big time.

And then I moved on from there too.

I had gone from being an unemployed English major who delivered lumber and worked as a clerk-typist to being a mainframe computer programmer who then transitioned to client-server development and then into web development. I got a physics degree. A hybrid physics/computer science degree with minors in chemistry and math. Plus one quarter-hour in volleyball.

I changed.

Now I've changed some more. I'm here.

I'm on a whole nother continent, south of the equator, in a place where I don't speak the language and don't know hardly anybody and am not sure at all of the rules. It's different.

So am I.

Unlike all the people I used to know. Who haven't changed. Much. During the last half century.

Which is something to think about.

Being an expat. I think it changes you.

Or is it that if you can change and grow, then becoming an expat is a thing you can do.

Either way.

Either way you change and grow because of it.

I couldn't go back to that small stuffy life.

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