This post is the first in an ongoing series titled “Separated Whole”. This series depicts honest stories and reflections from expats. The stories carry the theme of being complete even if we don’t quite feel like it, especially in relation to having lived in another country besides our native one.
By: Samantha McCalip
Do you ever look back through your memories and think to yourself, “Oh man, why did I do that? Why did I say that? Who did I think I was?” Of course you do! We all do. We would be lying if we said otherwise. Personally, I look back on these sorts of memories and enjoy saying things like “Oh, Elementary School Sami was a weirdo. Don’t even go there,” and “Eighth Grade Sami was cool, she had pink hair and emerald glitter on her eyes. What a badass!” and even, “First Year JET Sami was a bit of a derp, let me tell you…”
I think about my past self as if I were a different person in each time period, as if I am someone completely different now. But the thing is, I am. I’m not always the person I was last decade, month, or even week.
I read an article the other day talking about how, every seven years, a person’s molecules have completely renewed themselves within their being. Technically, after seven years have passed, the pain and pleasure experienced by that person was done to a completely different body. The memories stay, like data saved on a flash drive, and our bodies change around us. So really, Today Sami is different than Fifteen-year-old Sami in more than just her restraint when using glitter eyeliner.
If this article I read is true (which I trust it is because it had “science” and “amazing” in the title) then this means that we get to experience life through the stages of literally being other people. As an added bonus, on top of this cool ability to get new healthy cells to replace our old ones, I think that our minds are capable of replacing ourselves entirely whenever we want.
See, I grew up in a small town where everybody knew everybody and nothing really escaped being seen. When I dyed my hair pink, everybody in my school knew before I had even gone. In a town like that, if you tried to change who you were too much, or alter yourself too harshly, or forget past mistakes you made when trying either of those things… tough luck, bud. You were who you were, and that was that. Big change bad, familiar good.
When I went to university, I went with a few people from my high school. I got to change, but not really. Not drastically. Not fully and completely. They knew me; they reminded me that they knew me. Things stayed the same overall even when I lost contact with most of them.
Things only changed when I first got to Aomori. Around a bunch of people I had only met for the first time within the last year, I had a clean slate. I could test out new friendships, new clothing styles, new makeup. I was forced out of comfort zones, I made mistakes, and I definitely did some inward speculation. So when I say that First Year JET Sami is different than Second Year JET Sami, it is not with disdain or regret. It’s with the caring tone of, “Let me tell you about First Year Sami. She really grew.”
Without all my past selves, I wouldn’t be who I am today, or who I’ll be tomorrow. Without all my past selves, I would have stayed rooted to a Sami I didn’t fully know, in a town that didn’t know me either. So when I say to you that your many selves are all people I would like to get to know, I mean it. Your past selves matter, every one of them; this means they’re necessary even when they’re silly. So will I judge you for them? Nah… just like you wouldn’t judge me for having had hot pink hair and emerald-sparkle makeup all through my last year of middle school.
And why would you? Eighth Grade Sami was badass!
Do you have any crazy, interesting, or just plain funny stories from your time in Japan? Or would you like to submit a story for the series “Separated Whole?” Send any writing our way at firstname.lastname@example.org!