I've never been one to look back at "where I came from" fondly. In fact, I don't like looking back at all. I'm much more prone to cutting ties and moving on for good—no turning back, no second-guessing. But something prompted me to think about my past today, and I realised good things can come from doing this occasionally, even if it's not something you enjoy much.
A few months after I started high school, my best friend lost one of her parents. We were 12 at the time, and had been friends since we started school, just before we turned five. In a lot of ways, her parents became mine when we were kids. I used to spend almost as much time at her house as I did mine, and our parents were well-acquainted.
My dad was writing a lot of music at the time, and he wrote a song about this when it happened. I remember him playing it for me and the two of us crying through it. I listened to that same song again today—an updated version—and found it even more beautiful and just as heart-breaking as I did when I was twelve.
As I listened and cried today, I realised there are many more emotions tied up in that music for me now, than there had been when I first heard it. It's been another twelve years since, and I can now look back on my experience, and that of my friend's, with a more mature understanding. I can see all the moments I've had between then and now that would have sucked had one of my parents missed them, and I imagine the pain of going through those that way, and imagining all the moments to come that your parent will miss, as well.
It also made me think about my relationship with my dad, and how the sound of his music is inexplicably linked to memories of my childhood, and usually makes me cry regardless of the song. It made me think of how much has changed between us since I was twelve, and the dramatic ups-and-downs our relationship has gone through.
And it reminded me of where I was when I was twelve, and what my life was like. I lived in another state, then. I hadn't been overseas. I didn't have my first job yet. I hadn't met all the people I built strong relationships with during and after high school. At twelve, I couldn't see how important those people would become to me in a few years time. Or how, a few years after that, we'd have nothing in common anymore and would slowly drift apart until we didn't talk anymore at all.
Looking back on my life isn't something I like to do much, and I'm generally skeptical of the benefits. I tend to think I'm a better person as each year passes, and avoid examining who I was last year, if I can. But I was surprised to realise how doing so today reminded me of the incredible magnitude of life, and how small a part of it we all are. We say life is short, and it is, but it can also feel really, really long. From twelve to twenty-five, I feel like I've lived a whole lifetime.
I think I'd do well to remember that when I worry about not having achieved enough "by now"—whatever age "now" is.