We left the City Recital Hall with the intense imagery of Neil Gaiman’s stories vivid in my mind’s eye. Outside a gathering crowd of young people is waiting to get into a trendy Sydney club. I compared the evening of wonder we had just enjoyed with the many youthful nights I spent in similar clubs.
I regret how I wasted my youth going to clubs instead of seeking out to events like this one tonight.
You’ve been saying that a lot lately.
Yes, and it’s a good way to become depressed if you keep thinking you have wasted your life.
A stomach complaint kept me awake most of the night, and I began to examine the arch of my life without my inner critic for a change. In the early hours of the morning I realised I always saw my life as a series of stages. The shy kid in school who became a sports fanatic who morphed into a military professional and more recently a creative thinker and maker. I locked each phase of my life into a niche without understanding my life’s real narrative, evolution rather than radical change. I continually try new things while maintaining a fairly structured, and in some ways habitual life.
I have always enjoyed reading, and I can sit for hours with my mind transported to another reality by the words but my reading habits evolved over time. As I studied for my Masters degree I read exclusively non-fiction; history, political science and engineering texts dominated by library. I also read endless volumes of design engineering documents for my project management work, so by day’s end I only wanted to chill in front of television or computer game.
When I returned to fiction I discovered a more nuanced understanding of the stories, and sub-plots than I had as a young reader. This evolution could appear a radical change to the people who suddenly found me talking about fantasy novels more often than military history or the latest political intrigue. The real change is more subtle, I have started to pull all the threads together into a coherent narrative of how I live my life. Instead of silos of excellence, keeping my gaming brain separate from the military tactician I took lessons from every aspect of my experience to enrich the current activity or discussion.
My kids joke they don’t me anymore but I don’t find many of these new obsessions too far removed from my past. The difference is the time I allocate to exploring new things, taking the time to look and listen to what is going on around me. Then follow the trails I find interesting, one such trail led me to Sxip Shirey‘s website today. Sxip is an eclectic, electric musician, his style defies definition and a few years ago I would not have stopped long enough to listen. As a teenager I continually discovered new music to add to my eclectic collection but at some point I just settled on a sound and set it on repeat. It became a habit rather than an experience.
Should I regret my life choices because I enjoy different things today?
Of course not, instead of pining over lost opportunities I embrace the past risks and adventures of my life. My trip to China, rugby championship and missing out on the coveted jobs were just as important as hearing Neil Gaiman read his latest stories or briefly discuss Mark Rothko with Adam Savage. Those early experiences led me to this point in life, it made those encounters possible and I am grateful for everyone of them even the soul crushing ones have value.
So, Colleen will never hear me lament the past again. Our future is built on dreams not regrets, and we have a lot of dreams to make real.