I think too much. At least, I think I do. My brain is on a constant loop of past memories, present problems, future issues, and random nonsense. At any given moment, these thoughts could be important or mundane. I go from stressing over my son’s special needs schooling to wondering about the identity of the Smurfs’ mom all within seconds.
Because of this, I try to make things right more often than maybe I should. Sometimes, I will convince myself that it will balance out my head space a bit. I think back on a problem I encountered many years ago and, now that I’m all older and enlightened, I try to fix them.
I remember one particular instance about ten years ago, when I ran into an old college friend. We had a conflict way back then that was, at the time, a misunderstanding. He never knew my side of the story and, because I was a hotter head then than I am now, I made no effort to explain. I mentally gave him the Italian flick of the chin and moved on with my business.
I felt terrible about my actions. He was good guy…I think. He deserved better. Now it was many years later and I had thought that maybe, just maybe, I could clear some area out in my brain by explaining myself. He would surely appreciate it. We saw each other at a reunion of sorts and the small talk began. He told me generalities about his life and I returned the favor. It was all going superficially great. So, I began.
Listen, I wanted to explain to you about that thing we…
He stared off into space with this big weirdo grin on his face.
Ancient history, man. It’s OK. Forget it. Ha ha. Forget it…
Still, I persisted. It was important to me.
Yeah. I know. I just never told you my side. I didn’t…
It’s alright. Ancient history. Forget it. Forget it. All good. All good.
At this point, he was sort of bouncing up and down. I forgot that he did that. He had this bizarre Cheshire cat smile that always popped out when he was drinking and the sight of it just made my blood boil. I forgot about that too. Like Celine Dion warned, it was all coming back to me now.
Then suddenly, I remembered why I didn’t like this guy. I flashed back to 1998 and saw who he was back then. I knew, in that moment, that even though I never had the chance to explain at the time, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. This dude was a dipstick and I didn’t owe him anything. He didn’t want it either. We were good, or at least as good as we were ever going to be.
For years, though, I thought the opposite. I beat myself up about it. Sure, it wasn’t my top concern, but it was always sitting there in my memory banks. I envisioned scenarios where I was completely in the wrong and had dropped the ball when it came to my apologies. I pictured scenes that never played out where I failed to be a good person and a good friend. In my mind, he was waiting for me to come and say “I’m sorry”. He would put his hand on my shoulder and say, “I forgive you, old friend. I understand.”
The funny part is that watching him stand there with that dumb look on his face reminded me of so many other incidents that he was at fault for too. As we grow and mature, we tend to focus on how we did wrong. We think about the problems we caused and the guilt we should feel. We forget that life doesn’t exist in a bubble and these little Argentinas that we cry for don’t always deserve our tears. In many cases, they caused them too.
Maybe it’s maturity. It’s the desire to be a good person and set a proper example. I want my children to see me as the best person I can be. So, when I trace back my memories and remember the people I wronged, I figuratively kick myself for it. I see it from an adult point of view and look down on my younger self. If I had a time machine, I’d give the old me a good talking to.
Sure, there were times that I was wrong. It wasn’t every time, though. The mental beatings I may give myself aren’t always deserved and, even in the present day, I need to remember that. People around you may play the victims well, but that doesn’t make you the villain in every case. In fact, the harder they try to pull on your guilty heart strings, the less they deserve your remorse.
Life is short, but it’s also long. Memories change and, based on who we become, so do our feelings. It’s important to have faith in the person you were, even if that person is different than the person you are now. I may have made some mistakes in my life, whether it was 30 years ago or yesterday, but they haven’t all been mistakes. I don’t deserve blame for everything I’ve done. After all, they led me here to where I am today.
I’m pretty proud of who I’ve become. It took work to get here and a solid understanding of who I want to be. That “hot head” from the late 90s provoking battles in bars helped build that person. He may have had his flaws, but he wasn’t all bad.
And neither is the person he became.