The more things change...

...the more they stay the same. (See original quote below.)

I've always found this a fascinating aspect of human nature, and it was reinforced for me yesterday as I sat drinking coffee with five friends I had first met in second grade and, for the most part, had not seen in nearly 30 years. By the time I changed high schools in 1981, I was not seeing these girls regularly any more. My memories of them were mostly fixed in elementary school and junior high. And I lost touch, and that was that.

Then Facebook came along! And suddenly, people I had wondered about from time to time were in my life again, flesh and blood. And then, the coffee date.

First of all, everyone looked the same to me. No surprise. I think our brains imprint a face in our memories and it doesn't matter how old someone gets, the original face is always overlaid on the new face.

But what is fascinating is how much everyone's basic personality, speech patterns and physical characteristics have stayed the same. We may spend billions of dollars a year in this country on self-help books, therapy and fitness training; we may get married, have kids (or not), experience traumas and dramas and life-changing events; we may improve our bad habits, become more confident and embrace healthy or unhealthy behaviors of all kinds, but we do not ever really change.

I like to think that I'm very different from the girl I was when I met these women back in 1972, and even different from the 16-year-old I was when I left for another school. But as our conversation went on, in each woman I saw the same girl I knew back then. Same personality, same sense of humor, same facial expressions, same mannerisms, same everything.

I had this experience with another elementary school friend I met up with a couple of years ago. I hadn't seen her since fourth grade. Guess what: Same exact person I knew in fourth grade.

I'm not saying this is a good or bad thing. It just is. We can change our outward behaviors, but can we change who we are at our core, the traits ingrained in us by biology and genetics?

I guess I'm resigned to the fact that the shy, nerdy, loudmouthed 7-year-old is still with me. I'm no different than I ever was, except that, at this age, I have the self-awareness to know who I am.

Here's a cool article on the "nature vs. nurture" argument as seen through the Human Genome Project.

The original expression, in French, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" was said by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr.

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