Nostalgia and Regrets, Or Lack Of

One of my best friends from college died from cancer a few days ago. She was only a couple years older than I and had two teenage kids. I used to play trivia games all the time and she was one of the few who could actually beat me on our campus. After a couple years, she was the only one who would even play against me. Even though I hadn’t seen her in several years, I will always miss her. Easy socializing with people of similar interests is one of the things I miss about not being young anymore.

I’ve been thinking back on my younger years more than usual lately. I’m normally not nostalgic as I think nostalgia glosses over the bad parts of our past, overlooks what is going on that is good today, and leaves no vision for the future. Maybe it’s the time of year when school is back in session and my hometown, home to a small state university of about 8,000 students, comes back to life. Maybe it’s that after over a year and a half of pandemic and the end of two decades of war in the Middle East (at least for my country), I have found myself reflecting on how we got to the point in August 2021 were we currently reside.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I understand why so many people are nostalgic. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have the health they had in their late teens coupled with the knowledge they have in their elder years? But, health is wasted on the young and inexperienced and wisdom and wealth are wasted on the elderly, frail, and cynical. I just hope I never find myself complaining about the younger generations and fantasizing about a past that never existed anywhere outside of my own mind.

I do have a few regrets about my younger years. Most of them are minor, but the big one I have is that I didn’t do more to care for my physical health while I was fighting my mental illness in my twenties. I don’t regret the road trips, the books read, the college degree earned, the dead end jobs abandoned, the toxic people I gave up on, the failed romances, not having gotten married, not having kids, the activities participated in, etc. I certainly don’t regret having survived to middle age with a serious mental illness. I don’t regret trying to make something good out of a bad situation. I don’t regret being involved in many activities in high school and college. I don’t regret the friends I’ve kept over the decades. I don’t regret staying on good terms with most of my family even if we don’t chat very often. I don’t regret the women I’ve asked out on dates in high school and college even if I got rejected by all but a few of them. I don’t regret going a year and a half into a worldwide pandemic without getting sick and spending most of my time isolated. I don’t even regret selling my car and giving up driving. I always thought driving was overrated anyway. The only reason I learned to drive is that my country has had garbage for public transit my entire life.

I don’t regret not socializing with toxic people. I don’t regret cutting rude people out of my life. I don’t regret giving up on my minimum wage career. I don’t regret not letting other people determine what I think of myself. I don’t regret having unpopular opinions. And I certainly don’t regret spotting trends years before most people I know. I guess I’m not as nostalgic as most people my age and older because I have fewer regrets. Sure it meant lots of heat aches, humiliation, failed jobs, being betrayed, and knowing I’ll never be prestigious, rich, or even a respected member of my community. But it was worth it to become the man I am today.

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