An old friend said this to me on the phone earlier. And I knew exactly what she meant, but I also knew that she couldn’t be more wrong about herself!
We’ve all gone through rebellious periods, and I’ll bet money that a lot of us are harder on ourselves than the outside world is.
We all have a growing process and it usually falls in our twenties as we figure out how to leave the final stage of childhood—the college years—and become functioning, happy, adjusted adults.
It’s a stage of life that hasn’t gotten much attention before recent years, but Lena Dunham and others have tried their showbiz best to shine a light on the confusion, elation, and overall flimflam that accompanies this stage of life.
Hindsight is 20/20, so we all look back on our decisions with the benefit of perspective, not fully realizing that those decisions, good or bad, brought us to our current respective places. It’s a process. No two are exactly alike, but we share one common characteristic: we go through it.
Thinking about my friend’s words, I can connect with them. I had some crazy moments where I was acting without considering the consequences. I was lucky enough to be more of a free-spirited party animal and explorer of life’s offerings, as I’m sure a lot of people were; however, there are people who fall on either end of the spectrum—some people hurried to settle down and start “adulthood” and others pushed hard against it, while others were harbingers of destruction and crumbled under the pressure of taking on responsibility.
I’m realizing, though, that a lot of this growing up process is reconciliation—my peers and I are constantly reconciling past, present, and future. I see it as:
- Settling the past
- Understanding the present
- Resolving it all to get where we want to get in the future
Putting the past behind us, wiping the slate clean, starting new—those are all ways of saying the same time. Part of the reconciliation process is coming to terms with our past actions. There are times when the reconciliation is easy, like when an apology or the passage of time are enough to get the chalk off the blackboard. But there are times when too much damage has been done to reach and we’re left with a sense of loss, of fault for cutting ourselves off from a possibility—I notice that those are the people who are grieved and sad and try to dull their torture with excessive drugs/alcohol. Without a settled past, it’s really hard to live peacefully in the present. Without reconciling what came before, it’s really tough to reconcile what is.
Sometimes reconciling the past requires that we simply let it go—quite possibly the toughest way to go about moving on because there isn’t anyone else to provide closure, which puts the impetus on us to close a chapter here, accept the imperfect nature of life there, and to own our individual stories. But that’s just part of understanding how we get to our present state: accepting the past decisions that led to the here and now.
To understand something is to see what it is, what it was, what it can be—that’s what we do with our present states in this intrinsic reconciliatory stage. Some people are glad with their present because they improved their previous position (we think of these as rags-to-riches stories). Some people feel as if they’ve failed in some way by not living up to the potential they previously felt, which sometimes clouds their vision of the future. Other people are just glad to maintain a status quo, and that’s what makes them feel like they’re doing a-ok. And then there are the people who are happy about, yet have their sights set on something higher than, where they are. We each have a present state that gives us some hint about the possibilities for the future, and whether we are looking at it in a positive or negative light, we all have a resolution for how to make a future we can accept.
There are people who are short-sighted and don’t see how their present actions can affect the future. There are people who are too far-sighted and miss what their present situation has to offer. There are people who are too troubled by their pasts to enjoy their present. And there are people who are too entrenched presently to see a bright future. There are so many combinations that a person can encompass when balancing a past, present, and future.
I am always amazed by the possibilities that life presents, whether I’m looking at all the different lives around me or looking at the potential that one life holds. We are each the result of all the prior elements and hold endless potential for the future—what a remarkable thought. Whatever we were can be gone, we can choose to create who we are by simply deciding to become it and create that path into the future.
I know that when I look at my friend, I don’t see those few crazy years as a negative spot on her character. We knew each other when we still had braces, and I know that she’s a sweet and considerate soul. And sharing those growth years did a lot for me to appreciate her experiences as I lived through my own, and to see that time for what it was: growth, change, experience, etc. And during our talk, we shared our goals—she knows what works for her and wants to pursue the things that will make her better and allow her to give something positive to the world. I respect that to the fullest, and can only hope the best for her and strive to do the same! She may have felt like a crazy a-hole, but I think she turned out juuuuuuust right. And I think we can all turn out just right.