1. The person whose values don’t match up with yours
At first you will assume that this person is confused, so you’ll try a couple of times to explain your viewpoint to this person. You will be met with blank stares and a swift change of topic. You’ll try again.
This person will stump you. They will stump you by their complete inability to see where you are coming from. They will stump you because they are a contrast to your way of thought. They will stump you because you do not understand them and they will stump you because you have never so badly desired the approval of someone so different from yourself.
You will become convinced that if you can just yell a little louder, preach a little better or explain a little more thoroughly, this person will finally take your viewpoint and praise it.
(It is very likely that this person will be your parent.)
From this person you will learn that the values of others are often unchangeable. That you can scream at someone until your voice goes numb and they will still never hear you. So you’ll hopefully learn to listen instead. You will learn to compare. You will learn to examine your own stance through the incredibly relevant stances of others.
From this person you will learn to receive a kind of love you couldn’t recognize at first. You’ll learn the value of that love. And you may even learn to give it back.
2. The person who changes too much
This person starts out exactly where you are and that’s the problem. This person is your best friend, your confidant, the steady face you turn to through all of life’s peaks and valleys.
Except one day, this person will began to change. It will be subtle and slow until it isn’t. One day you will wake up and this person will be as far away as you could possibly imagine and you’ll have no idea how to get them to come back.
From this person you’ll learn all those horrible cliché things about letting the people we love go. You’ll learn to appreciate someone else’s happiness while still being kind of lost on your own. You’ll learn that the past can’t be brought back to life. You’ll learn that the changes we make come with costs and sometimes it’s other people who pay them. It will be a lesson in evaluating the consequences of your own evolution and growth.
3. The person who sees no error in their ways
To you, this person will look like a cry for help.
To this person, you will look like an utter menace.
You’ll be drawn to them based on your differences, but convinced that similarities exist. They’ll be from the wrong side of the proverbial tracks but you’ll see the bright spots on their horizon. You’ll have a vision they don’t have for themselves. You’ll be convinced that you can get them there someday.
This person will treat you like shit. They will reject your suggestions and scoff at your advances. They will see no error in the way they are living. It will be a long, exhaustive process of learning to give up on this person. Eventually you will accept that the bright, shining future you see in them won’t come to fruition.
I hate to break it to you, but this person will most likely end up okay, even without your help. Years from now you’ll see them getting engaged or glowing over the birth of their first child in a Facebook photo. You will wonder relentlessly how this change came about. You will curse yourself for not being able to instill it.
It will be an even longer time before you realize that no change was made at all. This person will teach you that flaws exist mostly in the eye of the beholder. You weren’t the beholder of better things for this. And that’s okay. You’ll learn that there is no wrong side of the tracks. This person will teach you about improper fits.
4. The person who intends to change but doesn’t
This person is the beginning of an incredibly exhaustive process. They will have all the skills, all the abilities and all the intention to make a change in their lives, and they’ll enthusiastically intend to make it. They’ll try as hard as they know how to try. They’ll do all that they can think of to alter their behavior.
And yet they will slip up.
The first few times, you’ll forgive them. After all, they will beg for forgiveness. They will cry and repent their mistakes. They will seek out more help and they will show you the plans they have created. Except that change somehow never follows. They are their own final frontier and it’s one that they cannot seem to cross.
You will learn from this person that intention means nothing. That well wishing means nothing. That sometimes, even love and regret and the very real threat of loss do not mean enough to bring about change. That some people could spend their entire life trying to love you right and still do it wrong. Most likely, this person will teach you the hardest lesson imaginable about walking away.
It’s a fortunate truth that you’ll spend most of your life trying to change yourself. This is neither unnatural nor unproductive by nature. The harder we try to change ourselves, the stronger a particular pattern emerges within the things that we cannot alter. Whatever it is that we cannot get rid of, we might as well grow from.
And it’s up to you to figure out what lessons you’ll end up teaching yourself.