When we see people we’ve known a long time, are we looking to see how they have changed, or how they are the person we have always known? Do we fall easily into “oh, isn’t that exactly something Justin would do!,” shoving our old friend right back to the self he was five or ten or even twenty years ago?
I think we have a confirmation bias about people we know. We look for evidence that they are just the person we knew all along, and we don’t see (or ask about) what might be different. Thus the little brother who, when he was small, made the family late by always looking for his lost shoes is forever a dawdler, scatterbrained, though he has long since grown out of that description. The college roommate who was uptight and went to bed early has a hard time shaking that perception in her dorm-mates, even though she has grown up to be the life of the party of the late night TV writers’ room she leads.
It’s comforting to think that people don’t really change. It makes us feel like time is moving less quickly, and like the work we put in to categorizing people wasn’t wasted. But what we lose is the opportunity to actually know who people are now, to see how they have grown and learned.