There are few people I will sit around a table and talk openly with about how stupid I was when younger. Not that I did anything terrible but it is my past and I like to believe I learned from my mistakes and my idiocy and have evolved into the damn fine person, parent, spouse, co-worker, that I am today.
Still, I have a few very dear, long-time friends that were just as much, sometimes more, of an idiot than I was. We have all evolved beyond what we were but these are the people who knew me when I was single, impulsive, without much responsibility, and lacking the level of concern and caution age and parenthood has instilled in me.
Still, I am baffled how when we get together (which is not nearly often enough) a level of that days-gone-by goofiness and idiocy returns. I laugh with them at things I laugh at with no one else. Made up words, clumsy situations, bathroom problems, old commercials, and those long-gone younger days. Spending a few hours with these idiots almost always involves laughing so hard there are tears and sore stomach muscles the next day.
At our past few get togethers, I’ve noticed we’ve all started to talk, without fearing judgement, about the things we wish we hadn’t done. I think age does that to you. There isn’t much warning for when it’ll start. But it happens. At some point you too will start the Life Choice Review and Evaluation process. Once started, it’ll pop up again and agin. In those quiet moments when your brain is free to wander: in the shower, doing laundry, driving without the radio on, sipping coffee standing in the kitchen gazing out the window. The process usually involves regret in the way of “if I hadn’t done that” or “if I paid more attention to that” or “if I’d chosen better that time.” It can bring tears, self-loathing, even anger. For some reason, the evaluation process doesn’t seem to include the awesome things you did.
This is why those long-standing friendships are so important. They know you now and remember the person your were. They’ve loved you through it all. They experienced that past life, they quite possibly are going through their own evaluation process, and they can help remind you of why the choices you made were the best you could do at the time. They are your connection to the past and the knowledge that you’ve evolved, bettered yourself, and your surroundings. Maybe even grown from the experiences you survived.
They’ve always been awesome, though. I admire them each in so many ways. I know them and understand why they did the things they did and I do not hold it against them. So, why are each of us so hard on ourselves? The Life Choice Review and Evaluation process seems to be a quite singular process. We do not hold our friends accountable to the same standards.
Still, I know through all our experiences, good or bad, we were there for each other with advice, hugs, or laughter. Whatever the situation called for we were there for one another. Relationships, new jobs, pets, children, retirement, no topic was ever taboo. It was not a one-sided awesomeness. Our friendship was always give and take. Then it hit me, so profound it was silly. Damn fine people are who we’ve all always been.