On our way to Asheville, we passed through Knoxville, the home of my alma mater. From the highway, I caught quick, blurred glimpses of some of the city’s sights, and it triggered a flood of memories. In this particular situation, my recollections were relegated to some of the taller locales, as those were the only buildings that stood out at 75 miles per hour. I saw the hospital that hosted my mom and I for eight days after my emergency appendectomy, the on-campus college apartments I lived in for two years, the Sun Sphere where I attended many an outdoor concert, and Neyland Stadium, where I spent countless fall Saturdays watching football.
Our brief drive-by also made me wonder why I had never before made the short two-hour trip to Asheville when I lived four years in a neighboring town. Which then made me question why I didn’t do a lot of the things I could have done.
I could have spent more time in the surrounding mountains and taken advantage of the proximity to North Carolina. I could have joined the Canoe and Hiking club, which I dabbled in but never committed to, because I didn’t want to “give up” my weekends. I could have studied abroad in a multitude of countries. I could have taken my major in a totally different direction. I could have learned French more fluently. I could have started running sooner. Bottom line – I could have done a lot of things differently.
If I was the me I am now, I would have. But I wasn’t, and that’s really all there is to say about that.
Sure, I had my fair share of random excitement. I took ballet, racquetball, and weightlifting classes. Visited New Orleans, Washington DC, Virginia, Ohio, South Carolina, and Chicago collectively more times than I can count. Captained an intramural sand volleyball team. Took a road trip to meet my pen pal of ten years. And so on and so forth (I mean really, how do you adequately list four years worth of activities?!). But looking back, I can’t help but think that there’s so much more I could have done.
But isn’t that just how life goes?
It’s called growth, and it’s all part of the journey. We get to know ourselves better, we change, we develop new priorities and interests. We acquire fresh knowledge and passion, and we begin to see the world differently than we did before. It’s quite beautiful, really. We (ideally) grow upwards and forwards, becoming a constantly revised version of who we once were.
There’s no need to look back at what wasn’t, because it can’t be changed. And it’s all part of your story. The only thing to do now is move forward, be thankful for the past that shaped you into who you are, and collect new experiences that appeal to the you of today.