“when people change” by Joy Gracia


Originally posted by Joy Gracia on her substack joyfull encounters, on June 2023

people change: rarely in the way you want them to, and usually not in the way you expect them to.

i watched past lives a few days ago and i have been thinking about it ever since. it is a simple movie about childhood sweethearts, na young and hae sung, who reunite twenty-four years later after having charted different paths for themselves. na young a writer happily married living in new york city; hae sung a working man in korea who recently got out of a long term relationship.

the movie is mostly comprised of hae sung and na young just walking around new york, but you can tell the affinity still exists. the very last scene before they parted hit me hard, because i know the sentiment is true. na young tells hae sung: “the girl you remember no long exists, but just because she doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean she wasn’t real.”

i hate that i understand the sentiment. having lived away from home long enough to know that a lot of friendships can not be sustained despite having best decisions. simply because there is far less common ground now than there used to be. while we will always remember how someone made us feel, the affinity is not enough to take root and conceive a relationship that can take root in the present.

people change. the way a relationship changes reflects that. but for the longest time i used to think people can’t change, or at least i didn’t want to believe it. i realize now when i said people don’t change, what i am really saying is people don’t change the way you want them to. and that i refuse to imagine a version of reality where the friends i care about no longer have a role in my life or to find myself becoming someone my younger self wouldn’t recognize.

i have come to realize that change doesn’t happen overnight. change isn’t always accompanied by major life events. change usually subtly sneaks up on you. it is a product of many small choices that compounds into a force catapulting you into the future.

i noticed people change the most when they feel like they have accomplished whatever they prioritized: make more money, get that degree, find a life partner. it fills them with a sense of accomplishment and with it occasionally a faint sense of arrogance. there is this desire to be recognized for who they have become.

i have witnessed some friends fulfill their definition of success, and with it a sense of entitlement that makes me feel aloof. but sometimes i wonder if they really changed, or if success simply revealed a side that i was initially oblivious to? which side of you was real? the answer is probably all of it. but the dimensions probably can’t exist at the same time.

i think people don’t usually change for the better. sometimes they do, but it is far more rare. as people usually change in response to something: change for the collective good is rarely incentivized. because when one changes to become more selfless, it is change that is often unnoticed or even casted around by society.

when i reflect on the ways i have changed, i always hope that i haven’t really changed that much. at least not in the ways that are significant, not in the ways that will make me unrecognizable. for if i become different, then it would mean that i have allowed the things that have happened to me to define me. it is impossible to not let experiences define you at all. but i feel like i have one job, that is to remain unaffected and to remain myself, despite what gets added to my resume. despite where life takes me.

“People change when they … Hurt enough that they have to, Learn enough that they want to, and Receive enough that they are able to.” – John C Maxwell

recent consumption (what made me feel !!)

  • https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2023/06/at-home-hormone-test-kits/674426/
  • https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html
  • peggy gou’s it goes like nanana
  • laufey’s i wish you love
  • a24’s past lives
  • reply 1988’s reddit thread
  • http://www.paulgraham.com/cities.html
  • yoora jung’s vlogs