Last week, I was prompted to read I Have Died Many Times by YouTuber CGP Grey with the promise that I would appreciate his writing. Since then, I’ve read the piece more times than I can be bothered to count. Something about it hit me, struck me to the point that I had to explore the idea in my own words. You see, I have died many times, too. And I’m dying now as I tell this story.
The idea behind Grey’s post is that we are not our past selves. We share a body and an identity, but none of us are the same person we were ten years ago. He expresses this by saying that the persons we were last decade are dead and gone. He then goes on to ask; would you be friends with yourself ten years younger?
For me, that’s a very tough question. I’m not old enough to be able to look back ten years and examine an adult with responsibilities and regrets. I’m looking back on a ten-year-old. I remember her well. She loved animals and lived for sports, and she didn’t think twice about wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts every single day. Her parents were still together, her great-grandma and both grandpas were still alive, and her biggest project was saving money to get a puppy. I would love to be friends with 10-year-old me.
But “I Have Died Many Times” isn’t so much asking us to look back on our childhoods. A more accurate time frame for me right now is probably 4 or 5 years. So would I be friends with 15-year-old me? Let’s see what I remember. She was wildly insecure, thought that maybe having a boyfriend would solve a lot of problems, and regularly spent too much money buying clothes with brand names stamped across them. Quite frankly, I groan at the thought of her.
That’s not to say I’m completely sure I’d befriend a clone of 20-year-old me. Yeah, I’ve stopped caring so much what the general public thinks of me, and I have learned to enjoy being single. Those are great. But I’m a mess of uncertainty, quiet questions, loud opinions, and one too many scoops of nostalgia. And even though I’m fairly content at the moment, I have no doubt that I’m going to look back in five years and blatantly groan, why?! at my current self. I understand that I’m not the easiest person to get along with, but maybe someday I will be.
It boils down to growing up. The more of the world we see, the broader our horizons grow, and the less willing we become to cling to our old ideas. It’s actually beautiful. And it’s incredible to know that, though we’re all changing, some friendships manage to hold on and even thrive throughout the changes. Those people who stick by you and remain in your heart through countless deaths are the ones who deserve your best efforts in companionship. Because if there’s one thing that all of my past selves would agree on, it’s that maintaining friendships needs to be a priority.