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  • Writer's pictureShawn McNulty-Kowal

Human Nature

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

Have I changed much? I don’t think so. I dread growing older. I think you can only change after you’ve fallen into a hardened mold of singularity. I don’t think I’ve changed much and I’ve little with which to prove the passing of time. The last time I decided to sit down and write the day before my birthday, I was twenty years old. I am writing the following at twenty-two years old.

I am so aware of me. Aware of my self. I know that my self-sabotage is cyclical and that I mistake self-doubt for growing pains. I pretend my self-doubt is a catalyst for growth. Have I changed much? Well, that depends on who you ask. Since when? No matter how old you may live to be, I believe that you will always hold on too tightly to a past version of self. You’ll lose everything you once were, holding on with white knuckles. Some people are not meant to die. But then, what did we come into this world for?

Have I changed much? I don’t know myself, I don’t know, myself. We are taught from a very young age how to welcome change, how to adapt to change. Adopt change. I think that for change to occur, there must first rest something with which you are so entirely familiar, that you notice even the slightest variation in what once was. I am aware of my self. I am so aware of my self that I’ve turned bored and disappointed.

Nature helps us understand this more precisely. Simply, trees grow the way they do and there are many of them. As a young person, we turn so fascinated by trees because they are so sturdy and stable and unmovable. We climb them and peel sap from them and seek protection underneath them until we feel tired enough for bed. When we wake up the following morning, suddenly (at least it feels very sudden) a branch has fallen and we can’t climb up to the top of the tree the way we could yesterday. The sap has blackened and hardened and peeling the sticky thing from the bark is no longer an option. The tree has fallen totally and sunlight warms its roots.

Perhaps, we find another way to reach the top of the tree. We might even pick a different tree - a sturdier, more unchangeable tree. Or, we decide to swing from low-hanging branches instead, like on a playground. We poke holes in the hardened ball of sap with hopes that it will blossom and ooze that sticky substance from yesterday. We lie in the dusty, dried mud with dandelions covering our eyes or we think back on how sitting underneath the tree’s shade once felt cool. Nature is so fixed that way. What you see is what you get, really, and you notice change like it is occurring in your own two hands.

I am so aware of my changeability. I’ve heard others call it metamorphosis. I am so aware of it, that I hardly consider change remarkable. I think the only fixed part of my identity is its unfixed nature and this almost feels like loss. We’ve learned how to welcome change, but I think I’ve missed the lesson that taught us how to keep note of our selves. How to admire and feel fascinated by the unchangeable parts of our selves. And so I’ve spent my time admiring the way my footing gives out when a trunk cracks and I swing my body back and forth, holding onto a higher branch with white knuckles. The way I create millions of holes in dirty sap in order to witness thick syrup, that looks more like white molasses, pour over bark. I admire the way I consider change a form of protection or escape when the sun sizzles.

Am I capable of change? I might seem to think so, but who am I to tell you? I don’t think I can answer that. Then again, you’re not the one asking.

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