Do people change?

A personal reflection

Geschreven door Jeroen Coelen op 06 mei 2020 Leestijd: 3 minutes

As of this month, I’m a PhD candidate at Delft University of Technology. Jeroen the researcher, researcher Jeroen, either way, it has a surreal ring to it. My 23-year-old self would be baffled if I somehow would be able to tell him about this jump (apart from the wow of time-travelling). I will show you why.

The other day, I remembered an email that I drafted but never sent. It was June 2015, just one month off of being precisely 5 years ago. I was struggling with deadlines in a scientific research course. What did I think of this course aimed to raise the academic skills of a student? Well, read for yourself.

"I think, that if there was any doubt in me of going into the scientific research field, this project and the approach of it killed any fiber that was left of it in my body. Never have I been less motivated, inspired or intrigued to carry out a project at the university. [..]"

"The constraints during this project were even narrower than the thigh gap of an overweight obese [sic] American citizen on a mobility scooter. [..]"

"The absence of a feeling of usefulness pursued, which struck me on a personal level and made me feel unfulfilled. Carrying out countless experiments, to find proof between two things that might not even exist. [..]”

I’m not really sure if I ever had the intention of sending that email. I removed the parts where I was just lashing out at the organisation of the course. That is a complaint older than education itself. However, this rant shows me that for sure I wasn’t open to nor ready for it, at least not in the way it was taught.

About a year after my graduation I started to resent the fact that I didn’t dip my toes too much in the academic water. More and more did I wonder about what life would be like if I majored in something more theoretical. My fondness for it grew as people in my surroundings, especially my brother, revealed the general relevancy and how well my brain seems to latch onto it. Fortunately enough, there are some people at the university that deemed it a good idea for me to dive into this academic pool. I found it hard to believe at first, yet it felt empowering from the start.

The relative impact of a single year on your life diminishes the older you get. Being 8 and 13 is worlds apart, being 13 and 18 too, but arguably less, and so on. I want to hypothesize that time relatively loses impact over time. Changes in life and self-perception become more subtle, yet for an outsider, change might be inconspicuous. The truer self grounds at a certain point, our bandwith of potential change evaporates.

It’s fun to see when people’s, at least my, vocalised views change. I first wanted to write that it’s fun to see when people change; undergo some kind of dogmatic transformation. However, I’m not sure if people actually change, or that they are just in touch with themselves on different levels.

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