Hey! Look at that. It’s Joanne! And (looks closer) is that Jessica? Sure is!
I got to take Joanne and Stick Jessica around Oxford. I introduced them to Amy and Samantha,
took them punting,
and explored the Natural History Museum (Stick Jessica didn’t like the crocodile).
It was really wonderful to see Joanne. I visited her in Spain over my break, and she had shown me around, so it was great to return the favour. She stayed in the extra room in my flat, and we watched a movie and knitted every night…it as almost like the good old days back in the States, except Jessica wasn’t there (N.B. Joanne and Jessica are my roommates at school).
But spending time with Joanne got me thinking about how much we have, or haven’t changed since studying abroad. Joanne, for example, now eats tomatoes and drinks tea (a real shocker for anyone who has ever shared a kitchen with her). And so I started to wonder about if, and how I’ve changed.
I’ve done a lot of things here that I’d never done before. I’ve lived with two guys who weren’t related to me, I’ve gone on a three day hike (twice!), I’ve cooked without a microwave, and I’ve even picked up a whole new vocabulary. And so much more. I’ve translated Homer and Plato, read several philosophers I’d never studied before, had to make friends all on my own, travelled to another country by myself, and found (two) home churches. I even started a secret society, but I can’t tell you about it, because then I’d have to kill you. I could keep listing all the new experiences I’ve had, but that will only distract me from my main point. Can I have had so many new experiences and not change?
Philosophy student that I am, I then start to wonder if people really do change, or just become more of themselves. I’m certainly different than I was when I was, say, in middle school (about 13 years old for my UK readers). I’m (a little) taller, I have a wider vocabulary, I’m (arguably) more mature, and I’m definitely over the whole boys-have-cooties thing. But am I really a different person, or just an older version of the younger me? Does an acorn actually change into an oak tree, or does it simply become one? In other words, does an acorn itself already possess all the qualities of an oak tree? Or perhaps more complicated, does a caterpillar, in becoming a butterfly, truly change into something entirely new, or does simply become a better caterpillar? Is a butterfly just the full realization of the potential that exists in the caterpillar?
These aren’t new questions, as anyone who has ever been dragged through an Intro to Philosophy class will know. And, at least at the moment, I’m not trying to finding the answer to them. I guess what I really am wondering is this: I know, or at least have a pretty good idea of, who the person was who went to England back in January. But will the person who goes back to the States in just over two weeks be the same one?