Thursday, August 02, 2007

A change of mind

In reading Sarah Vowell this morning on my break, I came across a sentence that got me thinking. That happens a lot with her and me; some of her writing is about American history (and it's a fabulous, thoughtful, nerdily enthusiastic way to learn about that), but some of it's just about life, about being a young adult with friends and family and a brain. I was reading her essay about the time Ira Glass tried to teach her how to drive, and she said, "maybe rethinking driving was just part of the general mind-changing trend of adulthood, part of the same impulse that caused me to reverse my previously held opinions on cucumbers, lipstick, and Neil Young."

I've been thinking all day about the mind-changing trend of adulthood. As an opinionated person, I like knowing what I think about things. I'm a side-chooser. A friend once commented that I have a capsule answer to any question of preference--complete with full reasoning and acknowledgment of loopholes--ready at all times. I took it as a compliment: I know what I think and why I think it. I've never really understood people who don't know what they think.

But it's as an adult that I've realized that my opinions are actually not The Way Things Are, and they don't have to stay the same forever: my identity doesn't shift forever, and the world certainly isn't going to start spinning in the other direction, just because I've decided that, for example, not all pork products are gross. Just because I've chosen a side doesn't mean I can't look around and then sneak back over the line when nobody else is looking. And letting my preferences shift around doesn't mean I know myself any less, or that I'm a less thoughtful person; it just means I can recognize that things change, including myself. And I have changed--in recent memory, just off the top of my head, I've reversed my opinions on tofu, Justin Timberlake, bangs, Friends, contact lenses, Ben Stiller (and back again), Mac computers, vanilla things, sleeping in tents, and wearing pink. It's not even that hard. See?

There are, of course, some things about which I expect never to change my mind (green olives and most brown sodas taste bad; Five for Fighting should stop making records; "interrobang" is a really great word), and there are some things about which I hope never to change my mind (God loves me and is worth loving back; time is more important than money; voting is important and exciting). But I think Sarah Vowell is right: growing up is the act of realizing that the world isn't exactly like you thought it was, and maybe you're not exactly like you think you are, either. And that's okay; you can always change your mind again, anyway.

78 comments:

Heather D said...

I know what you mean, and it's very disorienting. (Me? Do yoga? *Acupuncture*?? What's going on?) Even though I have lots of opinions that I've never rationally thought out, I usually can on the spur of the moment if someone asks.

I will also share a deep philosophical truth a friend of mine reached in high school which I've never forgotten: "It's not the food that changes, it's your opinion of it!" :-)

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