For those of you who do not know what Timehop is: it’s this fantastic app which sends you daily updates of what you were doing on this day last year–and the year before and the year before and the year before, all the way back to the beginning of social media (so, like, 2007). And by ‘it’s this fantastic app’ I mean ‘it’s this soul-crushing app which shows you how happy you were in the past so that you can compare it to how miserable you are now’. Magical, technology is.
Because of Timehop, I know that today is the three-year anniversary of the first day of the job that changed my life. I was really happy that day, and took a lot of pretty photos of my first-ever work travel day.
Because of Timehop, I know what I was doing one year later: happily working with my favorite group of teachers and having lunch at my favorite DC restaurant. I even know what I ate (palak chaat.)
Because of Timehop, I know what I was doing last year: stuck in Chicago for the weekend, I spent the day at the Art Institute with a friend and then bought a lot of cheese to prep for an impending blizzard. I also paused briefly to reflect upon my two-year work anniversary–see image, right.
And coming super-soon: the one year anniversary of me losing that job. Which I will get to re-live. Because of Timehop.
Any sensible person would think: gee, I should probably delete this app before it causes me to jump off of a bridge. I have had that thought. But then today I realized something: looking back gives me perspective.
My mom recently shared a meme with me. It was an image of someone driving a car and said something like: looking ahead is more important than looking backwards. That’s why the windshield is so much larger than the rear view mirror.
And I was like: True. But without a rear view mirror, you’re going to back into things. A lot.
Looking backwards allows me to never return to that person I was. Because that person? She kind of sucked.
You see, like most people, when I was happy, I was an asshole. I was all like: look at me and my amazing life that I made for myself. Worse, I was also all like: and all of you can do this too, if you really focus and work hard enough.
Note the hotlink in that last sentence. I actually wrote blog posts about it. Dumbass.
What I didn’t know was this: I wasn’t awesome. I was lucky. What I didn’t know was this: while yes, I did work really hard, and yes, I did ‘do all the things right’, hard work and right-doing alone do not equal success. You also need luck. And at any minute, my luck could change. And it did.
Now that I’m very much not happy…I’m still an asshole.
What? You didn’t think that I would change so easily, did you? Yeah, no. I’m definitely still an asshole. Absolutely. No question.
But I’m a much more compassionate asshole. And so when others tell me things like ‘you can be awesome like me, if you just do x, y, and z’, I understand where that person is coming from. That person truly believes that they built their life by working hard and focusing and following a prescribed path and doing all of the things right. So I will try to not get angry at that person, ignorantly self-righteous as they are (with an emphasis on the word try.) And I will definitely definitely definitely NEVER give that advice to anyone ever (again.)
Because that person, while hard-working, is also (currently) lucky. Their luck will change, and change back again. I hope mine will, too.
Which is why I’m ok with looking back over the happy parts of my life. It’s good to know they happened. I keep waiting to look back over this shitty period of my life and say ‘I got through that!’ I keep waiting. (And waiting. And waiting.)
Looking back also has given me a new understanding of regret. I always thought that regret was a rather black-and-white concept. Either you regretted a decision or you didn’t. Once again, I was wrong.
Regret, like all other things in life, exists in shades of grey–and purple and blue and green. Like a bruise.
I’ve done some amazing things in the past few years. I’ve made wonderful, hopefully life-long friends. I’ve seen parts of the country and world I never would have visited, and I learned more than I ever hoped. I cannot regret making the decisions which led me down that path.
But those decisions also led to the death of my career. To financial ruin. To months of tears and of nightmares (both figurative and literal). I cannot celebrate those decisions. But I cannot–I should not–forget them.
If Timehop is a bitch–and I contend that it absolutely is–it is only because regret made it so.
And some day I will look back upon this post and I will realize that I was wrong yet again. And I will regret writing it. And also be glad that I did.