In the Arrested Development episode, Señoritis, Maeby Fünke repeats her senior year of high school several times in a failed attempt at getting her self-absorbed parents’ attention.
We see Maeby having deep regrets about her life choices when two guys she hasn’t seen in years start explaining their new ventures to her.
Maeby seems lost or dazed as her geeky cousin describes his antipiracy software. The narrator comments: “Maeby tried to hide her jealousy. But as she listened to her cousin discuss computer technology she had no understanding of, she lost that feeling of superiority. And her self-esteem plummeted as she started to question the entirety of what she had done with her life for the last several years.”
Later, as an old colleague shares with Maeby about his new business, we hear the narrator say, “And once again she found herself with someone who had not only moved on with their life, but done so in ways she couldn’t understand.”
I mentioned running into an old friend who had effectively “changed the game,” turning his life around from devastation to success in the face of bitter disappointment and heartache. When I saw him, I was struck by his focused, hungry demeanor.
But I never changed the game. Like Maeby, I only got older and more down on myself for having wasted so much time.
I often have this fantasy of being three or four years old again, but with my current understanding and memories, and dedicating my whole life to mastering some cool art form (like music).
The feeling of having wasted my most precious years—of missing important opportunities instead of reaching latent potential—has loomed often in the last decade or so.
I once wrote this (while high) about such unbearable feelings:
“My fear is that I’ll never accomplish anything. It’s a fear of being frozen forever in inability and wasted potential.
“It reminds me of these lyrics from The Unforgiven by Metallica: ‘What I’ve felt, what I’ve known, never shined through in what I’ve shown. Never be, never see, won’t see what might have been…’
“I feel like I’ve somehow lost the ability to do what I most want to.
“It’s a feeling like lost innocence, or a lost sense of adventure—of being unable to really live in the moment, or to imagine as freely, anymore.”
Seven year-olds can play with toys and make worlds of fun on the edges of their beds after school. They don’t really have to try.
How about a sixteen year-old?
Adolescents seem to emulate a tense, imbalanced mix of the two worlds they’re caught between. I think it’s all supposed to reconfigure and settle properly by adulthood . . . ideally.
Is there something seven year-olds have that eventually gets lost?
When I was twenty-two, I fell in love with this girl who lived far away. We messaged and emailed constantly, talking on the phone almost every week.
It’s funny how easy it can be to construct a perfect relationship from across the world. I ended up quitting my job, pawning everything I owned, and moving to where she was, thinking I was being romantic.
We were quickly forced to face the fact that we weren’t actually the people we’d made ourselves out to be. Yet being as immature as we were, our primary focus was on maintaining the illusion at all costs. Pressing the situation, we started to circle the idea of getting married as a solution to the mounting, unspoken tension.
A month later, she was gone. I was broke and stuck living alone in a strange new place.
That was over ten years ago now. Looking back, I’m so glad we didn’t push the situation far enough to force a marriage. That would have been the most immature reaction possible to the chaos of being unwilling to see our fantasies so coldly struck down by reality. Getting married would have been like doubling down into the roles we were still determined must be the right and only ones to play.
How does that story tie to lost innocence, unbearable feelings, controlling addiction, and going public with experience?
I guess I see now, for the first time, how all the years I spent beating myself up for wasting time weren’t really wasted at all. I see that in the same way I now see I wasn’t ready to get married at twenty-two.
When I was seven, the world was endless. My biggest dream was to be able to fly. In fact, I’d walk around wishing it so hard people probably thought I was communicating with the voices in my head or something (maybe…).
Then I grew up and did drugs, sensing something of an old freedom in the way they served to stimulate, slow, and re-open my mind.
But regardless of my state (high, drunk, asleep…), my mind has always continued to do what it’s really always done, and what it’s doing right now. I’ve never stopped thinking the way I think.
Recording my experience to share has made me more and more aware of the part of me that doesn’t change. There’s a definite, fixed sense of identity as I see the way my thoughts all connect to float upon a lifelong current of the same daydream pictures, showing me all those simple things I’ve really always wanted and why.
I’m so glad I never stopped recording my high thoughts and experiences along with all the rest. Maybe weed helps me appreciate my thoughts the same way it helps me appreciate music, food, or whatever else it might enhance.
Here are some related thoughts I once had while high:
“I’m so glad I never made it before now. I wouldn’t have been ready.
“You can’t ever be hard on yourself. You have to believe it all works together.”
I don’t think you ever need to beat yourself up, even if you feel like you’re wasting potential. It’s a beautiful thing to see your worst mistakes, tragedies, loss, and regrets all somehow woven into a far bigger, richer picture or story.
Another high thought:
“When you’re ready, finding the path to your dreams is as natural as a child learning to walk.”
And really, you are ready. You’ve always been ready.
Not only that, but you’ve already started.
Do you beat yourself up for wasting time? Did you when you were seven?
Tomorrow: more on seeing your life as a whole.