“You used to…..”

Every so often, I deal with friends and family I don’t see on an often enough basis. I have gone years without actually seeing some family members face to face, though we talk on the phone often and text almost every day. I spend more time emailing others instead of chatting on the phone since our schedules don’t mesh well.

When I do get together with family from other states, inevitably someone says a phrase that kind of irks me.

“You used to….”

In some ways, this phrase is good. When it’s affirming, it can be an awesome tool. When reminding people how far they have come in doing something positive, it’s awesome.

But when it’s used to counter something or put someone down, it can be a pain.

For example, as a child and teenager, I used to not like rare meats, such as beef. I would ask for my burgers to be well done. When my family would make a roast, I would make sure to get the end pieces and then put them back into the oven for a bit to cook them more. It was just the way I preferred things then.

Over the years my tastes have changed (there’s a science behind why your tastes change) and while I still don’t like beef as rare as my other half, I do like it pink these days, if not a little red.

A few years ago, after I had been living in another state for more than ten years, away from any family, I was at an impromptu get-together on the East Coast with a number of family members. Instead of asking me what my preferences were these days, one of them made a point of exclaiming loudly and quite proud of themself that my burgers were burnt to a crisp because “that’s the way you like them!” When I tried to counter with the fact that I don’t like that anymore, this family member got defensive and said “well, you used to!” At that point, I knew no matter how much I tried to press the argument, this person was stuck remembering something I used to do instead of seeing what I do now.

I have had this happen to me many times. I myself am guilty of doing it to others, though I try to make a conscious effort these days to get to know the people my family and friends have become, rather than dwell on the ways they were in the past (though some of those ways do make for great fodder for storytelling). I recognize that people grow and change. While the essence of their being is still the same, they can be different in their ways now. And that’s okay.

It seems that, at least in the minds of some people, others cannot grow and change and be something different than what they were because they don’t fit the narrative the people have in their heads. I cannot try to be calm and not fly off the handle now because I was known for it as a kid. I cannot like rare meats now because as a child I detested them. I cannot want to design a tattoo now because I had such a fear of needles it took two orderlies to hold me down when I was three to get a vaccine. I cannot like certain music or artists or even authors now because when I was in high school, I didn’t care for them. The list goes on. And the negativity remains.

I am not the same person I was ten years ago, let alone the same person I was as a child. Yes, some things in my personality will never change. I will always have my head in the clouds. I will always try to love people more than they may love me. But many more, like my thoughts, my beliefs, my ideals and even my tastes will evolve and grow, hopefully changing for the better.

If people don’t change, they become stagnant and stuck in their ways. They become closed off from the world, living in ideals and thoughts that are trapped in time. While for some, that kind of situation may seem ideal, I myself cannot fathom being that kind of person. Just as I hope I won’t try to be the kind of person who can’t get to know the people others have become since I am far too stuck in the past remembering what they once were.

Just because we used to do something one way in the past doesn’t mean we always do it that way. After all, the story of each one of our lives in constantly changing. We each go through trials and adventures and experiences and quests and chapters that will shape and mold us, if we let them. It’s part of the magic of life. And staying stuck in the past always because “they always used to do this…” really doesn’t move the story forward.

And dear readers, if you’re stuck with people who keep reminding you of things you did in the past, get up, dust it off and keep writing that changeable story of the future. After all, our stories are our own to write.

You throw your head back, and you spit in the wind… Let the walls crack, ’cause it lets the light in…. Let ’em drag you through hell…. They can’t tell you to change who you are… That’s all I know so far.

~ P!nk, “That’s All I Know So Far”

So write your own stories.

Stay magical.

Enjoy the moments of life.


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And as always, #writeyourownstory

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