I hate the past.
I have a love/hate relationship with the past, particularly my past. That may paint me as some brooding badass with a dark secret, but unfortunately I’m neither brooding or badass enough for that sort of thing. My family likes to tease me when I say I’ll be in the next room drinking heavily when they want to break out old home movies.
The truth is I don’t like looking back at who I was, from childhood to early adulthood. Now that may paint me as someone who had a difficult or painful upbringing, but I most certainly did not. I did not have a sad childhood or a painful early adulthood. I have no scars that are painful to revisit. I have no traumas or tragedies that stand out from anyone else’s experiences. I just don’t like looking back at my years-long development into the man I’m finally comfortable being.
To me, it’s like looking at an old sketchbook. I don’t mean the sketchbook you would show off to your friends, or to artists you admire in the hopes that they might say, “Hey, you’ve got some good stuff in here. Keep it up.” I mean the sketchbook where you did the down-and-dirty practice to go from awful to less awful. Where all your mistakes are made. Where no matter how hard to try to erase that pencil line it’s still there on the page, ruining what would have been a great piece of art, always reminding you of the errant stroke you needed to make to learn from it.
That’s what the past is, to me. The sketchbook of my life. The process of fine tuning not my artistic process, but my way of living my life. And man, that sketchbook is filled with everything from over-the-top childhood drama to awkward teenage mistakes. I’m glad I learned from all those cringe-worthy moments, but I have no need to revisit them. All the pleasant moments are posted as memories on my various social media feeds, anyway. I’m comfortable with keeping the rest of them tucked away with all the other old sketchbooks.
A college psychology professor liked to hammer this point home to us every class, and I take his words with me every time I find myself dwelling on years past, for good or ill: “The past does not exist. Only the memory of the past exists.”