Sunday, October 21, 2012

Slipping into the Past

I try to spend most of my time exactly where I am. This may sound strange, but many of us spend so much time focused on the past or the future that we forget where we are. Still every once in a while I'll slip and find myself picturing the future, or looking back at the earlier days of my life. Sometimes when I look back it's hard to see the connection, how the person I was ended up as the person that I am. How I went from a kid who liked to run and read to a guy running a restaurant on the other side of the planet is a long road that twists and turns through a life I've been happy to have lived but seems disconnected into segments that are barely tethered together.

Some days events conspire against us and we can't help but spend some time apart from where we are. Today it was a combination of dreams about people I haven't seen in 20 years, a skype call from my friends back home, and thinking back over what I wanted to see as a tourist in Nepal in anticipation of my father's visit this coming winter. Although I've never used the internet to really reminisce, it's all out there now. Long forgotten photos, blogs, profiles of people you haven't seen in years, images of neighborhoods you haven't run through in decades. Friends that were once close that you'd almost forgotten, girls you had loved and then went your separate ways, beaches you had found paradise on, cities that had invoked wonder, words you had written that seem written by the hand of another. It's all out there.

Often times though it's not about the images, or the words, or the places. It's simply about the feelings they invoked. Sometimes those people, places, or word, you can't even picture or remember them but you can remember how they made you feel. The proud smile of your parents. Turning a corner and seeing the Duomo  in Florence. Reading The Selfish Gene and the epiphany of actually understanding evolutionary theory.  Going up to Namchee Bazaar and knowing that you would return another time. That first girl you slept with your arm around. The moment that you realized there was no good reason to believe in a God. Proposing to my wife and having her not believe I was serious. Some invoked wonder, others joy, and some sadness or laughter. No matter how each one is remembered I find that they all result in the same feeling in the present  a kind of melancholy.

I'm not sure why the past induces such a sense of melancholy. I have very few regrets, while I enjoyed most of it I don't look back at it as my glory days or want to return to them- but still maybe it is just the impossibility to enjoy something in the exact same way as that moment in history. The inability to do things even slightly differently. To be a little kinder to people, to have not let them drift so far away, to have not taken things so for granted, to have been just a little more thankful. Then again all the things that we have done has made us who we are, harsh lessons and all. Some people drift apart, not out of malice or even neglect but simply because you are no longer the people that had found common ground. You remember that the girl you went your separate ways with jumped on your car when you tried to drive off after a fight.

It's always easier to look back with accumulated wisdom and say maybe you would do things differently, but it was precisely those events that gave you wisdom in the first place, and the gift of such events are that you can apply these lessons to your current life. You can remember that you are prone to taking things for granted and try and be more thankful, you can recognize that over time people change and often drift apart, so enjoy those moments when you are in harmony. Be kinder because you've never regretted being kind to anyone for its own sake, and never date Italian woman because they tend to jump on cars and throw things. 
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