Remembering the experiences of many decades past is difficult. It’s also unreliable. I learned that some of the things I ‘remembered’ were not accurate.It has happened enough that I’m certain about almost nothing.
For my own part, my memories of younger years fill me with more embarrassment than nostalgia. So many things I recall are ideas I wish I had been able to dislodge sooner. I was frequently confident about my understanding of things that I later discovered were very different than I apprehended at the time.
At the same time I recognize that I am who I am today because of the sum of my formative experiences. The ones I recall with horror prompt me to wonder which others I have not identified as objects of shame, embarrassment, and opportunity to do better. In my present reflective mood, I am likely to discover at least one more before I sleep.
Of the things in my life of which I am most proud, there are two main themes:
- I held my tongue.
- I realized I had been mistaken.
There are countless times I can recall when I later wish I had not said what I did. In most cases I would have been far better off had I said nothing at all. There were some times when I was actually able to control myself and remain silent. Some of those are the proudest moments of my life.
Being wrong is never easy on ones sense of self. That said, it’s better to be aware of being wrong than to continue. Each of those realizations was an opportunity for real and important growth.
In my youth I did many things of which I am not now proud. To those I hurt, I am sorry. My conscience has been active, and my sleep has been troubled by things I did that I wish now I would not have done. I did some of those things after I was no longer young. I have wronged people I will never have a chance to meet again to let them know that I am sorry. Some of the may have figured out by now that the blame is mine, and so is the shame.