As the calendar changes from May to June, the focus changes from moms to dads and vets to grads. When one is neither a dad or a prospective grad, the sight of all those greeting cards can send the mind wandering toward class reunions. Such a weird place for it to go, but minds can be pesky things: when left to their own devices, they wander about like cats. Impulsive and easily distracted. But the prospect of tumbling down the rabbit hole into the past is tempting. How have the years changed the cast of characters I went to school with? They could be essentially the same people I remember…but maybe they’re not. Maybe the guy who wrote for the same “alternative” newspaper I did is a roofing contractor now and hasn’t written a paragraph since. Maybe the girl from media ethics I was convinced would be a professor is a married beautician with two kids. What about me? The years have been kind in some ways; the dashing figure I remember seeing in the mirror still is, but I’m not the (paid) editorialist I expected to be.
everyone I know has got a reason…to say…put the past away.
It’s easy advice, but I don’t want to take it. True, there is no way to rewrite history, and — though it can be fun to visit and offers plenty of opportunities for a toast and little levity — dwelling on it can only drag me down if I wonder where a well-placed zag or two would have led. But the road did offer hard-won lessons. There were better ways to handle an awful crash of a date than a months-long retreat into friendship, the stubborness and indecisiveness it brought on didn’t help; there were better ways of responding to getting fired from a job than stewing through a six month sabbatical, the stubborness and pride it brought on didn’t help. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it would be better to leave unhappy memories like these behind the way people are freed of their sins at baptism.* But what if the lessons went with them? Suddenly the value of turning away isn’t so clear.
and I want you to know…everyone has to face down the demons.**
The analogy is a bit melodramatic. Mistakes are not sins or demons, though one driven by pride or greed could be suitably redefined. I know, still melodramatic for various reasons, but going somewhere. Trust me. The past does leave scars of a different kind from the one on my ankle. They’re as much a part of me as back-to-back 3rd place state awards for political cartooning, hours spent philosophizing with friends over suds, or a year behind the news editor’s desk jousting with the editorial page editor over a weekly column. They’re reminders that slipping is not an embarrassment or a failure; I’ve lost my footing before and probably will again. The next trip won’t be embraced, but it will give me another mark to explain and another story to tell the Cheshire cat, the Mad Hatter, and the rest of the crew when I see them.
* It’s my understanding that baptism involves washing away sins, but I’m not a practicing Christian…so if I’m wrong I would like to know.
** Song lyrics courtesy of Third Eye Blind.