At first blush, I thought that I would have another year of no real resolutions (if I made any recently, I sure don’t remember them). Most of the self-improvement vows that people take are activities I’m already working on. I go to the gym, and I’m trying to be a little more enthusiastic about it. I try to watch what I eat. The only addiction I am currently in the thrall of is my earthy mistress coffee, and I’m okay with our 4 cup a day dance. I regularly end up outside of my comfort zone, and it’s only going to get more exciting/terrifying in 2014.
But I had a walk down memory lane yesterday that gave me something to resolve. I was giving myself a haircut and reflecting on the nostalgic feeling brought on by the giant wad of hubba bubba gum I was chewing. Max didn’t like the flavour of the bubblegum tape he got in his stocking, so he gave it to me, and I decided to show off by eating the entire roll. I can safely say that, though I can chew a whole roll of bubbletape, it is not a good idea. But the gooey, overly sweet blob I quickly spit out is beside the point.
The memory of eating cheap bubble gum from packages of hockey cards led me to remember the small variety store near the house where I grew up. And that led to the memory of the time when I was 10 and I bought a playboy from that same store, egged on by my school chums to do so. The store clerk challenged me by asking if I was buying it for my father, and my mumbled ‘yes’ was good enough for her. Seems a little lax in retrospect. Along with the memory came a flush of guilt. I stared in the mirror and realized I was feeling bad about something that happened 30 years ago, something that hurt no one and had no value now other than a funny story. Carrying around this guilt was doing nothing for me.
So, my New Year’s resolution is to declare complete amnesty for any and everything I did before the age of 18. That isn’t to say that I didn’t make mistakes as a kid. Heck, that’s one of the primary functions of childhood: making dumb choices and learning from the fallout. But feeling guilty about those dumb moments is unfair. It’s reviewing my past actions using my current experience and cognitive ability, instead of seeing those actions in the proper context.
This resolution gets a bit trickier when I consider the awful years from age 15 to 18. Those memories are foggy, but their proximity to adulthood makes me feel like I should take full ownership of them. But the reality is that those years were marked by social anxiety, depression, and self-medication through alcohol. That doesn’t excuse the mistakes I made during that time, but the past is past. That kid (and he still was very much a kid) was doing the best that he could. Being angry at him and feeling guilty for his decisions won’t fix anything now. Even worse, beating up the memory of that kid would leave bruises on who I am today.