I last saw him in February 2000, and then only for a couple of hours. During that time, he came across as a very different person from the person I'd known at college, to the extent that I wasn't really sure if we would be able to remain friends. But I kept an open mind, and when I heard he was back in the UK, I definitely wanted to see him. So I rang up, and we talked and talked until his mum started making "I want to check my email" noises. We arranged to meet for lunch, but ended up spending the entire afternoon together because we just had so much to say.
I found myself thinking out loud about the three different versions of him that I'd seen. I liked old Tim, and I like new Tim, but I wasn't sure if I'd liked the middle Tim. I said that new Tim seemed very similar to old Tim. He replied that inside, he felt very different. And I thought about it, and worked it out.
It's so obvious that many people overlook it: change is just a natural part of living. It's hard to be alive if you never respond to anything that happens to you. But for some reason, people tend not to notice changes in others unless they see someone again after a long time apart. Then, they only notice because they are comparing the new person to the old mental image that you have of them.
It's hard, and sometimes scary, to find yourself suddenly having to rewire a mental image that you've held for years. So many people worry when they find an old friend having changed considerably, especially if it seems that someone's become very different from the person they used to know. It's possible to work out rationally that changes in someone else aren't necessarily a bad thing, but I at least find it much harder to get that through the emotional part of me.
I think I've worked out why I was somewhat distressed by "middle Tim". It's that the way he was presenting himself then was not only different from the Tim I used to know, but different from the person I thought he actually was at that time. I believe it's possible for someone to become hugely different than the person they used to be, yet more like themselves. You know how sometimes, if you're able to do the mental image adjustment, you find that when you finally manage to fit the new information into your picture, some old information that you'd puzzled about at the time suddenly makes sense. I believe it's possible for someone to become hugely different than the person they used to be, yet more like themselves. And the problem with "middle Tim" was that not only was he less like the person he used to be, he seemed less like the person he was.
[dedicated to griffen].