People Change

“People change and forget to tell each other.”

Lillian Hellman, American playwright, screenwriter and political activist

Father seemed unusually chipper on our journey to Kamloops, British Columbia. There was a lightness to him, a sense of anticipation that had been quietly building over the weeks leading up to our trip – the only vacation we took that year. When curiosity got the better of me, I turned to Mother. Her explanation was simple yet profound: it was about Leo.

“An old army buddy of your father’s. I’ve gathered that they were inseparable during their service – partners in mischief and duty. It’s been decades since they last met, not since 1945,” she told me. Indeed, it had been over 25 years since the two had seen each other.

Father often spoke of Leo with fond nostalgia, painting the picture of a vibrant, laughter-loving prankster who thrived on playful banter. “He was always up for a joke, that Leo. A relief in those tough times,” Father reminisced. “Might not have made it without him!”

As a young man, far from the comforts of home and faced with the uncertainty of war, my father found a kindred spirit in the boisterous and bold Leo. Yet, when they reunited after all those years, the image each held of the other clashed with reality. Leo, still clinging to his youthful bravado, seemed out of step with the times – his humour now veering into the inappropriate, his once-endearing audacity now coming across as mere arrogance. It was as if he had paused in time, remaining the unruly youth he had once been. And maybe, when seen through Leo’s eyes, my father seemed different too – more guarded, definitely more solemn, and perhaps even a tad set in his ways, a striking juxtaposition to the frightened young man Leo held in memory.

Their reunion was fleeting, tinged with nostalgia, yet unsettling. A wild and reckless jeep ride down a narrow mountain trail felt like a vestige of Leo’s mischievous past rather than a sincere effort to reconnect. Soon after, they drifted apart, and Leo’s name was never mentioned again.

Life is a continuous journey of growth and adaptation, vital and inevitable. However, the very changes that propel us forward – positive and profound – can sometimes appear as threats to those who believe they have us neatly pegged. Rooted in past behaviours and static views, they may find our evolution disconcerting. This tension challenges the status quo, underscoring personal growth’s transformative power, even amid resistance from those familiar with our old selves.

Reflecting on this reunion, it’s clear how the essence of personal growth echoes through the unfolding of life’s complex tapestry. Father’s evolution from the adventurous soldier to the man I knew, underscored by his and Leo’s divergent paths, mirrors the broader journey of embracing change and fostering self-awareness. This poignant narrative serves not just as a memory but as a vivid illustration of the inevitability and importance of personal development. Like my father, we all encounter life’s trials, each a crossroads where we must choose to either evolve or retreat, subtly steering us towards growth or, through inaction, into a state of stagnation.

Honestly, my father’s self-esteem during that era is a bit of a mystery. If I’d dared to utter the term, he’d likely have given me a sideways glance. To me, change is not just inevitable, it’s a catalyst for profound transformation. Nurturing our self-esteem sparks a journey within, allowing us to cast off the shackles of past limitations and unveil a more genuine version of ourselves. We evolve through overcoming fears, challenging old beliefs, and embracing change. This evolution can lead to shifts in our relationships, as seen with my father and Leo. Their story highlights a vital lesson: as we change, our connections must adapt – sometimes leading to difficult realizations and goodbyes.

Though not intentionally aimed at building self-esteem, Father’s journey demonstrates how life’s responsibilities and challenges often act as the silent architects of change, whatever form it may take. These experiences refine our character, impacting not just how we see ourselves but also how we interact with others. Indeed, our paths to cultivating self-esteem and uncovering our true selves can profoundly affect our relationships, sometimes in ways we least expect.

Reflecting on this, I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’s observation, ‘Isn’t it curious how day by day, nothing seems to alter, but looking back, everything is different?’ This encapsulates the essence of personal growth and underscores the message of my father’s reunion with Leo. Though gradual and often unnoticed in the moment, change accumulates into significant transformation over time. Embrace this journey with an open heart, and watch as you and your world transform, remembering that the paths we tread, much like Father’s and Leo’s, are uniquely ours and deeply interconnected with the tapestry of our relationships.

In the journey of life, change and growth intertwine, teaching us that the essence of becoming lies not in clinging to the past but in bravely stepping toward the future. As we navigate our paths, let us embrace the wisdom that true growth is a journey of becoming, marked by the courage to let go and evolve.

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