Do you ever have those moments where you find yourself making decisions not based on what you want right now, but based on what you know some previous version of yourself would have wanted? Doing things that maybe don’t so much align with your priorities now, but doing them anyway because you feel like you owe it to your old self? You know what I mean; the times you say yes to a party invitation you’re pretty ‘meh’ about because “High school me would have killed to go to a party like this.”
There’s this quote from A Separate Peace that I finally managed to find online (I hated the book too much to reread it after it was assigned as summer reading freshman year of high school). “Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him. It is the moment when his emotions achieve their most powerful sway over him, and afterward when you say to this person “the world today” or “life” or “reality” he will assume that you mean this moment, even if it is fifty years past. The world, through his unleashed emotions, imprinted itself upon him, and he carries the stamp of that passing moment forever.” For me, for a long time, that moment was high school. Long after I’d graduated and evolved past my shy, awkward high school self, I found myself still taking on that identity; assuming guys still didn’t want to ask me out or that I’d never make a sports team. The realities of my life were quite different, but inside I was still that gawky 14 year old. I don’t think I’m alone in this mentality. We have such a good idea of who we were, we forget that that person might not be who we currently are.
Take Josie Geller. She’s a successful adult, an editor at a big newspaper, but still feels like a loser because that’s what people treated her like in high school. It takes actually reliving high school for Josie to realize she’s not the same person she was at 17. It makes for a fun movie concept for Josie to go back to high school undercover, but the rest of us don’t have that option, which is probably for the best.
You’re not Josie Grossie anymore. You’re not committed to stay who you were in high school; your senior superlative is not a life sentence. Don’t get stuck in a moment you can’t get out of, whether it’s high school or any other time in your life you find yourself compensating for now. It’s one thing to learn lessons from your past and take advantage of opportunities that weren’t previously available to you; it’s quite another to burden Current You with the impossible task of solving Past You’s problems. If you find yourself making choices you’re currently lukewarm about in order to compensate for some past shortcoming, it’s time to stop. Most of the time, we can’t fix the disappointments of the past. The best thing we can do is to live a sufficiently amazing life in the present so that those unpleasant memories fade away in the distance. When we stop living in the past, it’s a lot easier to notice how awesome the present is.