Who was I when I was twenty? I was Alfred. I’m still Alfred. Or am I?
Few of the cells in my body are the same as the ones the former Alfred had. Perhaps none of the molecules are. It has all rotated out and away.
Few of the thoughts in my mind are the same as the ones the former Alfred had. They’re colored by a richer palette now. They reach farther beyond to more people.
There’s a strong sense of continuity that we confer to individuals through time. I’m not very different today than I was yesterday. I don’t feel reborn every morning. I have the same smile and the same frown I did as a child. But over the span of years, I’ve worked fiercely on developing myself.
What if we could sometimes say I’m no longer the same person I was X years ago?
What if the boy who kept embarrassing himself in class is not me in the present? What if the youth who told racist and sexist jokes is different from me? What if I could choose not to identify with the kid who couldn’t afford school lunches? What if I could look at myself and be convinced that no, the person I was is no longer wholly reflected in myself today?
Can we absolve our regrets and heal our wounds by assigning past harms to a separate, past other? Instead of guilt or shame of a problematic past, can I extend love and compassion to the confused, scared kid once called by my name?
What would this open up for whom I could be tomorrow?