I sometimes spend a fair amount of time looking back at the past things that I’ve done in my life … maybe a little more than I actually should, I don’t know. But it intrigues me to occasionally wander back to those places that I’ve already been, whether it’s to simply bask in seemingly simpler times or even consider something that happened from a different perspective that one can only have when they look back at themselves 5 or 10 or 15 years after the fact.
I don’t necessarily wish that anything had turned out differently in the long run. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy with the life that I have today and everything that surrounds me, and if we’re talking space-time continuum here, then no, I wouldn’t ever want to go back and risk changing something that could have drastic effects on where I’ve ended up today or even what might happen to me beyond now in this life into the future.
With that said, sometimes I do look back at those various times in my life and wonder what would’ve happened within that unique moment if I had done things differently … if I had moved to Florida a few years earlier or if I would’ve taken my first major writing gig a little more seriously than I did. Of course, the thing about retrospect is that it’s easy to look back on the past and talk about the things that you could’ve done differently, whether it be not putting deadlines off until the last possible minute or returning phone calls that maybe you weren’t mature enough to return at the time. When you’ve got all of this new experience that came after those random moments, it’s only then that you could ever really know that maybe there was a better way to handle certain things.
And as bittersweet as sometimes it is to look back at those times and think, “Man, I should’ve done this differently…”, at the same time I also try to look at where I am right now and know that it was those moments in the past that have helped to shape me into who I am today. I may not have taken my deadlines very seriously back in 2004, but I certainly put a heavier weight on the commitments that I make today. Just as I’ve learned things about trying not to hold onto grudges as much and not cutting people off who are important to me just out of spite and even simply the importance of taking some time every now and then to simply look around and soak it all in where I am right here and right now, because another 10-15 years from now, I’m going to be just as nostalgic about this time, too.
I guess that’s the curious thing about how nostalgia works, or at least how my nostalgia seems to work because it never seems to be limited to only that one golden time in my life when everything was perfect. It’s more like a window that just keeps growing and growing as time passes, from childhood to grade school to my college years to my late 20s and even simply looking back at what’s happened more recently. This world feels so big that not only do I want to go out and experience all sorts of new things, but I also want to remember and relive the things that I’ve done in the past, too.
That classic quote – “Don’t live in the past – instead, live for the future…” – feels like it falls a little short for me. I want to do both, and ultimately I think that as long as one can maintain a decent balance between the two, sometimes there’s still a lot that we can learn from our past that we never would’ve imagined while we were busy living it at the time.