Sunday, January 17, 2010

Then and now

I took a rather uncomfortable walk down memory lane today when I found myself looking at high school and college yearbooks and reading old letters from friends. It struck me that I have very few accurate memories of who I was all those years ago -- or at least that the person reflected in the letters and photos isn't the one I remember being. How did that happen?

And, if the young woman in those photos and letters ever really existed, how did she become me? It's hard to reconstruct all the forks in the road that lead me here but surely I should at least be able to figure out which were the most important.

Maybe it doesn't matter. After all, I can't change the past and regret is nothing but a waste of time and energy. On the other hand, things that happened along the way sometimes resonate many years later in unexpected ways. Like most people, my perceptions of reality are deeply affected by past experiences.

For example, many of my closest friends are people I met when I was 17 years old -- more than 30 years ago. How would I feel about them if met them today for the first time? I'm sure I'd still admire and respect them, and might even want to get to know them better -- but it is all those years of shared memories and experience that really bind us together.

Whatever the truth of who we all were -- I can't help feeling sad that my memories are so unreliable, and that I so rarely feel the same hope, joy and optimism I felt back then.

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