Late in February this year, I met a person I had last met 19 years ago while working for a newspaper. The person had been a promising artist then and happens to be a well established one now. It was great catching up but the conversation was almost all about 19 years ago and the heydays of Pune’s art scene and journalism (with respect to music and art reviews) and the role everybody played and how those were his (and apparently my) best days and so on.
The very next day after that catch-up, I met another person – this time a former colleague from my instructional designer days. And once again the meeting went yesterday, the wonderful time everybody had … and how those were the best days of her career. A third conversation – on phone – in March beat down a similar path.
Those three conversations made me think. I have had these ‘down memory lane’ catchups in the past but they didn’t have the same effect since they are usually spread far apart. Three in a span of 12 days with the same pattern forced me to think: Were those my best days?
The thing is: Am not a nostalgic person. My time as a journalist was a time in my life. People who I came into touch with at that time, my friends from that time, define me as how they saw me, how they saw my work and how the world reacted to my work. It was just a time in my life. It wasn’t a special time, just a part of my life; it wasn’t a bad or un-special time, just a part of my life. Like my time as a restaurant manager or a student or an instructional designer or a business consultant… I was and am the same person through all those times. I haven’t stopped being a journalist or an instructional designer or a student or a consultant, but people tend to define you and identify with the part of you that they knew well, intimately even and then for the rest of their lives they associate only that time with you.
Similarly, people often think of themselves in terms of what and how they were at a particular time when they were at their best (in their own eyes). And that becomes their self image and over a period of time if their changed reality does not necessarily reconcile with their self-image, that self image becomes their identity since they keep projecting it. Often we don’t realise that the reason we don’t become what we want to is largely due to the fact that we are not satisfied with who we are in the moment, and that dissatisfaction occurs we are not a finished product at any point in time because we are evolving, learning and changing constantly. And so we tend to latch on to a time when we figure we were our best and from then on, we are never really going to become anything better because we are sort of drifting into the future with our backs to it since we are busy looking fondly and then wistfully and finally in bitterness at the wonderful memory of how good we used to be.
The trick they say is not to be attached to your self or your self image, or to the pedestal that our ego puts us on. And just stay in the now, always.
I don’t know. I don’t think physics or meta-physics or psychology or mindfulness or … I just get up each morning in a Groundhog Day mode- but in a good way. Each day is new. Which means I can do anything, be anything and I am excited about each new day. Each day is the same. Which means I know I will get through it alright. I like looking back once in a while, but mainly to pick a strand, a learning and to connect it to where I am. I do look ahead once in a while, when I feel I should at least pretend to have a plan, but mostly I prefer the now. And in my case, now means “the now”, as in: this very moment. On the personal front (not family, not company, but personal as an individual) I rarely think about anything further than a minute away because somewhere along the way I had concluded that this moment could be my last and I didn’t want the last moment to be of me thinking of the past or the future. For a while when I was younger – the 20s – I had been thinking of going out smiling (to inspire awe and maybe hope and hopefully envy) in those left behind. Then in my mid-30s, I settled on a benign expression. (Yes, I was given to giving a lot of thought to dying and how the visage should be as I departed). Then, I got bored of the whole thing and stopped caring.
I guess I realised that my best days are each day, and that just means my best moment is now, in every now. If I am who I want to be in this minute, my past and future takes care of itself.
That’s my take on it anyway.