It’s a general rule of mine to not look back at the past, and instead focus on improving my future. “As great-grandpa Alphonse always said, ‘If you’re looking back to see what you missed, you won’t know what hit ya,” (Albert Soady, Escanaba in da Moonlight.)
The past can be fun, don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t mind looking back to several points in my life, especially the happy ones. It’s great to reminisce with my friends about our old garage bands, and different gigs we played. It certainly doesn’t hurt to remember a time when I was surrounded by friends and fans. But, as I get older, every time I revisit these days reminds me more and more:
Younger-me was an idiot.
You see, as a rule people have this annoying tendency to change. We all do it, and we don’t tend to notice it because we witness every transition. I am not so different now as I was last week, and I won’t be so different next month. But I’m certainly not the same as I was in high school. So when I think about what I liked about high school, I think about all the things I wish I had done differently, too.
I’m not so much haunted by this as I am trying to be cognizant of it (though I still occasionally do the thing where I randomly remember something I did that was embarrassing and scream internally.) Unless you take drastic action, which is not recommended, you will find you have changed every so often. You cannot help but have life experiences, and these things shape you. It is guaranteed that we will be different.
It is not guaranteed that you will be better.
Being better is what I am all about. It’s why I wake up early to exercise. It’s why I am applying to graduate school. It’s why I don’t quit when I hate my job, why I am traveling abroad, why I want to learn more languages. Wanting to be better always reminds me of a promise I made to myself:
About this time, two years ago, I was sitting on the steps of the Duomo in Florence, Italy. My friend tore his gaze from the illuminated cathedral before us long enough to take a sip of his Tinto-de-Verano (Mix lemon soda with a cheap red wine. You’ll thank me.) and said to me, “This is the kind of night you remember forever.” A moment later my other friend said “Not me. A year from now I hope I’ve replaced this memory with another good one.” As you might have guessed, his comment struck me and I promised myself I would have as well.
But here I am, two years later, and I don’t. I still remember that moment vividly despite having gained several other memories from experiences which were honestly more wonderful and more monumental. So no, I didn’t keep that promise, and I didn’t forget that night. But then I’ve always been good at remembering where I’ve been, so that’s not the issue. That’s not what this is all about.
I have to work much harder when it comes to remembering where I want to be going.