I cannot know for certain, but I suspect people who haven’t seen me since they knew me twenty years ago would recognize me today. It’s not so much my face they would recognize. Rather, it’s the person behind the face. Yet they would not know the same person today they knew then.
They would recognize my sense of humor and the sometimes unpleasant intensity they saw twenty years earlier, but they would notice something very different about me, as well. My guess is that they would not know quite what that difference might be; only that there is something about me that has changed, something unspoken and invisible.
My problem with this is simple: the change is opaque. My erstwhile friends would be unable to articulate even the slightest characteristics of the change, nor can I. I have no clarity about what the change is, only that it’s sufficiently significant to have changed who I was into who I am. It’s hidden beneath a veneer, that thin facade that masks what’s underneath, that’s impossible to peel away. The sense of humor and intensity resides in the veneer; the transmogrification has taken place in what’s buried below.
But I know I am a different person. Some of the sharp edges have dulled a bit. A touch of the certainty has eroded into ambiguity. Pockets of the ferocity have melted into pools of nascent civility. Yet those are simply outward evidence of a deeper change within.
Some would say the accumulation of twenty years’ experience wears one down; but it’s not just aging that’s taken its toll. And, perhaps, it’s not a toll at all but, instead, a positive adjustment. I know it’s not simply that I’ve aged. I’ve undergone a massive transformation that’s impossible to express. The one thing that hasn’t changed is this: much of who I am is and will remain hidden. Even the changed me is reticent to open up too much, lest I reveal the demon or the angel beneath the robes.