I heard from an old friend yesterday. When I knew him and hung around with him, he was friendly and fun and sort of hot and very talented, but he tended to get gloomy and drink too much and talk about “the good old days”. This guy was 30, and he was already living in the past. And now, when he’s 65, apparently he still is living in the past.
With people like my friend, everything NOW is wrong and everything THEN was great. Having been with him for five years when THEN wasn’t really very great at all, and then hearing him talk about those times as if life was one long wonderful madcap party, it makes me sad to realize he’s never going to live NOW and always going to live THEN and his talent for romanticizing the past is always going to make NOW suck.
I very loudly do not regret anything. Every single thing I’ve ever done or said or had happen to me has been another step on the road leading to where I am today. I think that’s a fairly positive outlook and a healthy one. Had I the opportunity to do some things differently, I might, but I don’t regret doing them. If you’re basically a good person trying to live a decent life, I don’t think you should have anything to regret.
But I do not romanticize the past. I hold fast to the good memories and allow the bad memories to fade over time, because in my experience, if you allow it to happen and don’t keep replaying the bad memories in your mind like a bad commercial, it will eventually fade. I have a recognized problem with living in the immediate past and fear of the immediate future, so my life journey has been working to BE HERE NOW. It’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, its the goal of many religions and spiritual practices, and holy men take years and lifetimes trying to get to that place.
But with work, it’s possible. Certainly, it becomes easier to enjoy the moment and not to fuss over what just happened or might have just happened or might happen next. By focusing on what IS rather than what MIGHT be, my life has slowly become happier as I’ve aged, instead of becoming some grumpy old fart like my friend who is still whining longingly about how much fun we had when we were young adults and how badly his life sucks now.
I can’t fix my friend. He has to do that himself. But I can rejoice in knowing him and learning from him that I don’t want to live the way he lives. Our most important teachers come in the most unexpected forms and places.