I was recently in Colorado and had a chance to catch up with friends that I have known for more than ten years. We knew each other before I was married and before any of us had children. They’re also one of the few people who knew us before epilepsy.
We reminisced about the days when our lives were simpler and had much less responsibility. Adulting is hard. The weight of trying to focus on a career but still spend time with the kids, friends, and each other gets to be too much. We’re all exhausted and come home and want to do nothing but go to bed early.
Ten years ago, we thought it would all be possible. Ten years ago, we thought nothing would change. Now, we’re tired and depressed because we couldn’t maintain our lives from the past. So it made sense that we would be nostalgic for the time before we felt like we were failing.
But we’re not failing. As much as we thought we could, we weren’t supposed to keep things the same. We couldn’t just sprinkle on new stuff like kids or a more senior job. Our lives evolve and become something else. Today is not yesterday. It’s something new.
Instead of trying to fit my new life into the old one, I’ve tried to figure out what my life should look like now. Instead of focusing on what was important to me then, I’m trying to focus on what is important to me now and build my life around that.
But it’s hard to let go of the past, especially when there are days when the present seems impossible. Every seizure, every outburst, every time my son can’t remember what just happened…I just want to hop into a time machine and go back to before any of this happened.
I think that is what my brain is doing every time it compares today to yesterday. It’s trying to bring me back to the past. But it’s wasting energy. It’s swimming against the current instead of letting the current carry me forward. Worse, the past that it is trying to bring me back to isn’t real…it’s a distorted version made better by years of distance.
It’s not always easy to focus on the present. The present is hard. The present is real. But instead of using my energy to try to make my life what it was, I should be using it to make my life the best that it can be now. Because the present is where my life is. The present is where my family is. The present is where I am needed. The present is where I am supposed to be.
Nostalgia is a necessary thing, I believe, and a way for all of us to find peace in that which we have accomplished, or even failed to accomplish. At the same time, if nostalgia precipitates actions to return to that fabled, rosy-painted time, particularly in one who believes his life to be a failure, then it is an empty thing, doomed to produce nothing but frustration and an even greater sense of failure. ~R.A. Salvatore