I like who I used to be. As a child, I had so much fun and was a lovely kid. In my teenage years I had my troubles, but it was a great learning time. When I was 20, though, I had it all together.
My world was full of ideals. Everything could be solved easily so long as I thought about it hard enough and applied logical ideas. Nothing was a problem, only a challenge to be conquered victoriously. The few problems in my life seemed quite small compared to the general feeling of “life is good” that I had.
I was the ruler of my world at 20. I had grown up and conquered the world. Academically, I had won. Friends, I had been lucky enough to get. Free time was easy to come by easy to enjoy. I could be who I wanted to be, and nothing was standing in the way. Little was I troubled by the world outside the one I wanted to see.
In the last three years, almost all of that has changed. I have grown up a great deal, and realised I wish I could be 20 again. It was easier then. It was fun then.
What happened? I suppose I learned my ideals just didn’t line up with the real world. Problems came that I realised I couldn’t solve, and I didn’t even know where to begin. My free time, my hobbies, many of my friends, my technical competence, my care-free and untroubled thoughts – all seemed lost.
It was like I had been travelling across some great land on a great adventure, and I had learned all about how to travel well. I knew what I needed to. I had the right gear. I was fit and experienced at crossing the plains, mountains, valleys, wilderness, and highways. Then suddenly the land ended, like cartoon Coyote chasing after Roadrunner and suddenly running off a cliff. There’s that moment when he’s hovering in the air and looks down to the chasm beneath him with a comical look of horror. Then, he falls down the absurdly deep canyon while accompanied by an equally comical whistling sound and lands unharmed in a puff of dust.
But when I fell, I didn’t hit land. I found myself suddenly learning to swim in a raging ocean. None of my previous experience had prepared me for it or helped me deal with it. I was a complete novice. In many ways I still feel that way.
I wish I could recapture some of the things I loved about being 20. Perhaps my happiness then stemmed from my naivety, so maybe I can never get that sort of happiness back. There must be a kind of happiness living in the real world, though, when we learn to somehow ride the churning chaos and tide of life beneath us.
But where is that happiness? Where do you look for happiness when you realise the happiness you were chasing was just a mirage?
Oh, I know all the “right” answers… the ones that come from idealised views of life and people. But the real world isn’t like that. The real world isn’t “right”. And somehow I think finding happiness is like a skill that you cannot simply “know” because it must be learned. There are no answers, only problems. It’s like learning to ride a bike.
I need to learn. I need to learn to find happiness amidst the trouble, and peace among the turmoil. Find love through pain. Find contentment that does not come from competence or tranquillity, but the contentment that comes from simply surviving through life’s thunderstorms and hurricanes. I must find enjoyment despite my cynicism. Hope despite my broken dreams. I must no longer compare my life with an unrealistic ideal, and instead look at how far I have come.
When I was young, I thought flying to the moon would be nice. Now, just seeing the moon is nice.
I would go outside at midnight and wonder the mysteries of the stars. Now, I go to bed and sleep.
I had visions of being the leader of great world-changing company. Now, it’s hard enough just having a job.
I dreamt of a life without problems, but now I realise it’s those problems that really make life what it is. So, now I wish I could better deal with the problems I have.
It all seems to be far more glum than when I was younger. But, I don’t think I’ve changed – I think I’ve just tasted the real world for the first time. What’s worse is I’m not sure it gets better – because from what I can tell it only gets harder. The waves are larger and the winds stronger. I’ll look back on this time and think it was easy, but I wish I could think that now.
Have I lost my passion for life? Have I lost some precious essense of youth, like forgetting where I put my car keys? And if I have, how can find it again? Is it possible? Do I even want it back? At what cost have I lost it, or have I found something else? And if something else, what?...
Do you see how many unanswered questions I have now? =)