Back in a place this week I literally haven't been in almost 3 decades, but that seemed to form a transition in my life for a few years.
I didn't grow up here. I never claimed it as "home". But, it was where I went from a boy (who thought otherwise) to a young man (who still had no clue). Where I had solidified my plans for how life would be, and who I would become.
I've literally lived two other full lives since I left this place, for good and bad. And, no spoiler necessary, neither were what I had planned.
The thing is - I've blown off, and diminished, this location's influence on my life. To myself, more than anyone. Told them it was just a place. Told myself it was just a time. I actually think I believed it, until I showed up here.
Yes, landing today. Seeing familiar locations mixed with the growth of the years. Sitting in a hotel room looking down on places I walked in another world. Remembering people and times and thoughts and plans. It brought ghosts back I hadn't planned on.
I can see him, looking back. Younger. (MUCH) fitter. With a longing in his eyes. Seeking that challenge - half of it based on a lie. Sure he had it figured out.
I look at me now. Maybe not broken, but bent. A different... I can't say wisdom... but, knowledge as to what certain things come with. Less focused on proving myself and more on finding myself.
My life hasn't gone where I thought it would back then - where I thought it *had* to, to be honest. And... that's ok. Honestly, I ended up a better man. Similarly, I can look back at who I was, and acknowledge the mistakes I made not only in my own life, but how I was with others.
It would be easy enough to write it off as nothing. Similarly as saying things move on. Or, I could get all maudlin and play the "what if?" game.
There are ghosts walking tonight, as I sit on a balcony in a room I wouldn't have imagined back then. Not braggadico, just a fact. Similarly, there's a longing for the young man I was, so much potential - some embraced, some thrown away.
I'm not who I thought, or planned, or dreamed I had to be back then. I've screwed up a lot of things, and hurt people who deserved better. I've failed myself and those who gave me opportunities. Far of too often, I've chosen "easy" instead of "right".
Yet, somehow, I've learned from this and grown. I'm FAR from perfect, or even decent. But, I'm working on it. I've found a niche which I am able to fill and excel in, and gotten to do and see things I never would have imagined those years ago. My wife and children aren't at all who I predicted, and are so much more amazing than I deserve. I've failed over and over again, and yet moved forward to good things.
I'm not who I was then, and that's a good thing. I can walk here and lay some spirits to rest that I didn't know haunted me.
And, I hope that young man can look forward and, even if he's confused, realize things turned out ok.