Dealing with the past

There’s this one thing I’ve noticed about myself in recent times. It’s sometimes annoying, sometimes understandable and sometimes pathetic. It’s something I have to learn to deal with better. Put simply, I struggle with the past.

I’ve always been more concerned about the future than the past. I have always felt things in my life were going to get better. You could even say I assumed that they would. Why wouldn’t they? As time goes on, things get better. It has always gone without saying.

When you are underage, the future means more. More freedom, more possibilities, more everything. It means cooler computers, money to spend, places to go and people to meet. Maybe my attitude toward the future is fundamentally adolescent. Perhaps there will be a turning point, an age where I will come to the conclusion that my best moments are likely behind me. I desperately hope that is not the case. I hear many people who are older than me that seem embittered by the years, but conversely I know people younger than me who express similar discontents and frustrations. I prefer to think of my approach as the product of a positive mindset, rather than my age. If that's true, then there should be no reason why I can’t continue to be optimistic about the future as I get older.

I’ve always been uncomfortable with nostalgia. Spending time reflecting on how things were, whether they were good, bad or otherwise, has never been a habit of mine. On occasion, there is some justification for it, but it has become an obsession for some people, an industry in itself. I just feel like it isn’t very constructive. It’s unlikely to help you engage better with the issues of today and tomorrow, because our memories are so often distorted into something that barely reflects those things as we experienced them.

I generally find conversations with people I have not seen for a long time a draining experience. This isn’t true for everyone, I admit. But if you are someone from high school that I haven’t seen for a while, and you see me in a supermarket avoiding you, please be aware that it’s not a reflection on you. It's something I’m not particularly proud. If caught I will always try and have a good conversation, but I’ll sigh with relief when it’s over.

I had a discussion the other day with a co-worker who suggested all of this might be a result of some form of social dissonance. The circumstances that facilitate acquaintances are almost always temporary. How much do you have in common with a person from your basketball team once one of you has left the team? That feeling you get flicking through your Facebook feed, feeling disconnected and cynical about the people you know? In a lot of cases, circumstance alone tied you to these people. It does it not mean you didn’t or do not hold genuine affection for those people. But I feel like seeing things in a different context, like social networks, can be a pretty jarring experience.

In two weeks I return to a workplace where I barely visited in six months. I enjoy the company of those people very much, but that doesn’t much help the nerves. Given a day or two, I’ll probably be back into the swing of things again. I’m sure my answers to the question of ‘so, what have you been up to?’ will end up being pretty well-rehearsed. I’m going to have to manage it all in a pretty conscious way, but I’m sure I’ll be stronger and wiser for it.