In the last couple of weeks, people bombarded my social media feed with their #10yearchallenge photos. Some were entertaining. Some, quite sweet. A few, on the other hand, were downright cringe-worthy. I guess there is something about ringing the new year that makes us want to revise how much we have changed — or haven’t, for that matter. Now I am not quite sure what should stick. January 2009, for me, was the time I decided to secure my own little space in the vast, exciting www jungle; and for someone who is very much obsessed with peculiar dates and celebrating anniversaries, I cannot believe I almost forgot this milestone. Perhaps because of continuity. Perhaps because I have always written.
In a time and age where our entire lives are already being archived while the events are still happening, looking in the rear view mirror still manages to beget all kinds of emotions: joy, surprise, fear, regret, envy, love, nostalgia. A complete and utter reassessment of self. The other day, my friend told me that he would do anything to be to able to share useful insights with his younger self on... well, life. Mitigate the confusion. That being different is okay. That it gets easier. If the more energetic, less wrinkly version of ourselves were armed with other — better tools —, would they have dealt or taken a different — better approach to life then? Straight away, this train of thought got me to brood on this utopian wishful thinking. I could not help but wonder — why, really, do we devalue inexperience? Why should we have known better?
We have a tendency to glorify as much as curse innocence or past events. We miss the lightheartedness as much as tremble -- as soon as we reminisce about the first pains of #adulting. A moment molds a person. A decade changes a person — beyond measures. Ten years ago, I could drink a whole bottle of vodka and wake up the next day as if I were sipping only water. Now, I actually only drink water. Ten years ago, I was confident that my broken heart would never recover from, what I imagined, was my one chance at love. Now, I know true love comes in very different shapes and forms. Ten years ago, I was less understanding. I was more judgmental. I was less predictable. I was more stubborn. Having said that, I acknowledge that these more or less features were -- and are, naturally, strongly influenced by external factors. Experience does that. Nevertheless, experience also taught me that there are qualities that are deeply rooted in our core -- regardless of what will happen. Ethan Hawke’s character Jesse tells a story in Before Sunset which I often come back to: it is a study of two types of people who have different fates. One — cynical, hard-headed — wins the lottery, and the other — kind, full of life — becomes a paraplegic. One would assume that the first will be enthusiastic for the rest of his life while the other stays relentlessly mad at his unfair circumstances; but once the new situation settled in, both went back to being exactly who they are. I trust that this is true. I am still as disciplined. Curious. Gregarious. Spontaneous. Nice. Opinionated. Wild. Hopeful. Still somewhat naive. Sure, there are times I wish I could have watered it down because it either got me into trouble or hurt me -- to be this way; but fundamentally, no amount of bad eggs, expired milk or terrible poems can ever water down who you truly are. Ten years ago, I went in with my head first. Now, I go in with my heart.
We read hundreds and hundreds of quotes every day on leaving the past where it belongs. In the past. I am not saying I do not agree, because I do; but I am one who also cannot live without it. And sometimes, I admit, I still live in it. Perhaps because I write. Perhaps because I have always written — and words always succeed to get me inside the time machine -- even it is just the time of a read. During this ten year challenge, and toasting to my very own ten-year blogging anniversary, I frantically had to urge to edit some of my old posts, before deciding not to. They were valid then — and they are valid now. Do I write the same? Do I write differently? I came to realize that inexperience has always been a writer’s best friend; because the more I know, the faster I write. But the less I do, the better I write. The same goes for living.
I am more at ease in my own skin today than in my twenties. Doubts still persecute me. Dreams, then, will fill me. Growth is not always change; but change always means growth. In hindsight, things really happen the way the are supposed to because at the end of the day, no matter how old we are, no matter what path we take on, it is the one life we own -- and the only way we learn how to live is by living.