Things I’ve learned from looking back

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I recently happened on a long document (185 pp.) consisting of emails I wrote when I was in grad school in Virginia. It’s quite a trip going back and remembering the people, experiences and emotions of my youth.

Some reflections as I look back on late 20s/ early 30s: in other ways I’m relieved to see how much I’ve grown since then. In particular:

  • There are some things that I miss a lot about that time: travel, flexibility with my time, being surrounded by friends & coworkers on a daily basis, having forward momentum in my education and career
  • I was an incredibly black and white thinker. I had beliefs & values and they didn’t fade into shades of gray, and they applied to everyone. In the letters, I can hear myself bumping up against and working to transcend this thinking, to just let people be themselves.
  • I over-analyzed things, and I think that was okay and useful, but it became a problem when I obsessed over things. Containment: I think I’m better at it now.
  • I did not do well as a single person. I knew and liked lots of men, lots of men knew and liked me, and managing that aspect of my life (which never went beyond friendship for all the time it consumed) left me constantly exhausted, demoralized and hopeless.
  • I tried so hard. I thought and questioned my emotions and watched my actions and revised what I was doing constantly.
  • I was pretty intense :). I talked a lot, put my emotions out there, felt things deeply and went from high to low on a regular basis.
  • I didn’t like to disappoint people, but I was learning how to do it when I needed to.

What I’d love to take from that period: my joy with life; my energy and enthusiasm for new people and experiences; my constant striving to create healthy relationships; my investment in personal growth; and my eternal gratitude for the patient friend recipients of my numerous navel-gazing emails who lovingly provided advice and support and kept me on track.

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