While we were in Wichita this weekend, April and I walked to a park near the house where we stayed and wandered around the playground. There was a skating area with ramps and jumps and bars to grind on, and some skaters were braving the cold (I was bundled in my trenchcoat and a warm hat) to skate while it was otherwise unoccupied. I had this brief daydream of going over to watch, of them inviting me to give it a go and my standing on a skateboard, going up and down the ramps and grinning while my new friends whooped and hollered and cheered me on.
I thought of when skateboarding was a part of my life, however miniscule, back in junior high and high school. I tried once, but fell. Wilson tried a lot and also fell, but more rarely than me. It was emo and punk and part of a larger culture in which I was never able to participate. It represents all that is wild and reckless in youth to me, and I somewhat regret not going down that path.
This Thanksgiving, I reflected on my youth and what I would have done differently regarding the friends I made and the activities in which I participated. Maybe I would have ditched the violin and learned drums or guitar sooner, joined a band and learned how to skateboard. I’d have grown my hair out and maybe gotten an ear pierced, maybe a tattoo in 2001 like I’d been considering. Hell, maybe I would have gone to England, consequences be damned, and Evie would still be alive.
I thought a lot about Elisabetha this Thanksgiving.
And I feel vaguely guilty for considering the past, for sitting and thinking about what I’d have done differently. Because if I had changed any of that, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I’m employed and well fed, with a good place to live and a nice church. I have an amazing fiancé who plays video games with me, and makes sure I eat, and who loves me. I love her, and I feel bad for reconsidering the past; I don’t even know if I’d be alive now if I’d taken a different path.
I don’t think about the past because my present is undesirable. It’s just some weird twist of masochism that leads me to regrets. In retrospect, I would not change anything, but I wish there was a game or a machine somewhere that could act out the possibilities for me, fill in the mysteries, and conclusively prove to me that I was right. That I needn’t have any regrets. In a sense, though, those regrets are precious to me. The calamities of my youth spur me to try harder so I do not repeat my mistakes, and my present and future are better for them.
It’s just hard to remember that as I drive down the highway, listening to CDs I burned my freshman year of high school and wondering about the book of poetry she never published, or where Wilson’s at now, or what songs I’d have written had I learned how to listen to myself sooner.