Does one’s character develop over time? I mean, in a book it has to or it becomes a very boring book, but what about in life? Change is inevitable, of course. You learn things, you experience things, but like a child learns not to hold a hand over a hot plate, it sometimes feels like character growth, in real life, is more like that. That it’s not growth as such, just a game of avoidance.
Take the thirteen year old me, the one that is fixed in the childish scrawls in the journal I am holding at the moment. Sometimes I think that person was a different one than me. I can remember him, of course, and I can remember doing things as him. But the stories I tell myself now about him, are they true, or just convenient lies for effect?
There’s so much anger here, in this journal. So much cynicism and rejection. I think that if I could wring the book for liquids, the liquids that would come out of it would be quite dark. If not black as crude oil. Of course the cynicism and rejection masks a chasm-deep naiveté. Sometimes I feel like I can reach out and touch my thirteen year old self. Sometimes he feels like a complete stranger.
I usually have a selfie in each journals. My nod to narcissism, or my documentation of my life. As usual it’s a mop of black hair, black eye-brows and a too big nose. I never would be fawned over on the internet, so it’s lucky my attempts at passing myself off as a cute boy lasted for about a month before I quit that foolishness.
I’ve been thinking about change lately, particularly since I’m about to marry. It follows me into my dreams, and I wake up from dreaming about change. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, is what my thinking could be reduced to. All the anger and cursing and things I did back then before I realise that maybe what I’m remembering is not actually true at all.
Perceptions are key to memories, and you only remember what you perceive. Perceptions are inevitably biased. Mood and state of mind determine what you observe, feel and experience. Therefore it’s hard to determine whether there are any memories that are actually objectively true. Right?
Asking people doesn’t seem to work either. The witness to the experience of the memory is as biased as the one that experiences the memory. It seems that memories are lies that we tell ourselves about ourselves for various reasons. And then mood and state of mind determine what you recall. Chances are that we shear off the bits that doesn’t suit our inner narrative, and add bits that enhance the narrative.
What will I think when I’m not 18 but 81? What will I remember of this time, and how different will what I remember be from what I experience? And how many lies and omissions will I make?
Is that why I keep these journals, like this one I’m holding from the thirteen year old me? Did I even then instinctively doubt my own perception, or was it just silly pretension? Did I just want to pretend that I was this astutely observant individual in a world full of sheep?