When Glasses Aren’t Full Or Empty…
Many people like to compare life to a rollercoaster. You have your highs and your lows. It all goes by too fast, and you can freak the fuck out when it gets to dangerous—especially when you know you can’t get off the ride. So what’s to do? If life were an actual rollercoaster, would anyone really want to choose the timid, kiddy coasters in comparison to the thrilling, scary ones? Or the other way around, would anyone take the risk if they were exactly sure what it was?
Usually in the books and movies, main characters are hit upside the head with a moment of clarity at the climax of our story. Maybe someone tells them the truth, maybe their best friend gives them advice, maybe a lover pours out their heart, maybe they are standing out in the rain and a solution is suddenly pulled right out of their butt. Either way, they look back on their life and realize what is important. No one does it before the mistakes are made. No one figures it out before their lives are completely screwed up. People tend to know how to fix things after the fact, if they ever figure it out at all. That’s just how it usually goes. Hindsight can be life altering, but it can also seem like a pain in the ass—mocking you with the answer as soon as the test is over.
And as time goes on it changes. For instance, if you had an obsession with High School Musical when you were eleven. At twelve, you may shrug your shoulders at the thought of it. At thirteen, you may shiver. At fourteen, you may gag. At fifteen, you may deny it. At sixteen, you may not care the slightest bit. Time alters our perception, and even though the memories may not have changed, the way we look at them does.
So how are you supposed to know what the truth is? How are you supposed to know if you should admit to your boyfriend that you used to make out with your Zac Efron poster and sing “Get Your Head In The Game” in the shower?
Well, I’m not a geisha or anything, so I’d say the misconduct of Teen Bop Magazine and misuse of your shampoo bottle as a microphone is your own call. Personally, I’d laugh right along with him after I’d fessed up. But all I did was the poster mishandling.
Anyway, whether you believe in regrets or not, when we look back on the things we used to do, the people we used to know, the places we’ve been, and who we used to be, our reactions are almost never repeated. Take relationships—initially after a break-up, you may feel remorse or denial. Then you may feel anger. Resentment. Wistfulness. Next you’ll want to stop feeling anything and move on. After a nice rebound and recuperation, you may look back and be glad that it turned out that way. Or proud of how you handled it. On the flip side, you may be ashamed, but years later you may be glad you learned your lesson earlier. Our feelings go through a cycle about the same situation. The only thing that changes is us. That’s how we are able to get past the low points on the rollercoaster. We keep moving and climb up to the high ones. Once I mentioned to a friend that I had been better when she asked how I was. She said to me, “That just means there’s something better around the corner.” Sounds corny, I know, but I really appreciated it. Lows points are usually stumbles on a path that’s leading you somewhere good, as long as you keep believing that’s where you’re headed. So sometime when you’re looking back on a recent setback and are trying to figure out if the glass if half full or empty, stop. Remember that this moment is just that, a moment. How it all turned out doesn’t have to spin our whole perception of life, especially since your perception of that moment will change time and time again. It really can be as simple as what they say if you let it: sometimes you just gotta learn your lesson and then go learn some more.
Who needs that glass of Dr. Pepper when you have a bottle of Lipton Diet Green Tea, anyway?
Originally written: 3/28/11