And I haven't. Yet when I think back on that time of my life, I also think of the wonderful aspects of my college experience: the unforgettable lessons learned, both inside and outside the classroom; having a community of friends, all bright and motivated with youthful hopes and dreams; a supple, slim, pain-free young body; the limitless possibilities for the future -- that I read as uncertainty then, as opportunity now.
How often do we see the past in a new way -- not forgetting the past as we once experienced it, but now reviewing it through the prism of life experience?
How often have you given quiet thanks for an experience or a relationship that once troubled you?
How often have you viewed a period of your personal history that once felt confusing or unfair or even catastrophic as a valuable growth experience, a time in the continuum of your life that now makes sense, neatly fitting into the puzzle of your personal development?
How often have you looked back with love instead of old anger?
Not long ago, my brother Mike and I were talking about my memoir in progress -- a complicated tale of horror and humor and fear and love, the story, through my eyes, of our often -- but not unrelentingly -- horrific childhood.
"I just hope you will be able to convey the whole story," he said, cuddling his infant son Henry with a tenderness he rarely experienced in his own childhood. "I hope it won't look like our childhood was relentlessly horrible and scary, even though much of it was. I hope you'll be able to express the nuances, the other aspects, that also shaped our lives -- like the laughter, the fun, the poetry, the love..."
And, yes, that's the challenge of telling the tale of our growing up: remembering what was wonderful as well as what was terrible, the laughter as well as the fear, recreating the delicate balance of both that made our lives -- then and now -- unique.
Sometimes new views of the past come with changes in the present: a new understanding and appreciation for our parents when we become parents ourselves; a pure love and nostalgia for parents and other loved ones once we have lost them and are no longer dealing with the daily reality of the complicated people they once were; a warm look back at a time that was pivotal to our present -- a job that felt hard and unrewarding then but that was a vital step to professional growth or a relationship that seemed a failure that now looks like an important life lesson or turning point.
"Would you really want to have grown up in a different family?" my brother was asking me. "Would you want to have a different history? Be someone else?"
He kissed his smiling baby son and added "I wouldn't."
I looked tenderly at this man, once an abused child, and marveled at the resilience of the human spirit and the value of time and personal growth in making sense of what once was and what is in our lives today.
The value of perspective, the seasoning of our views and emotions with the years of experience that life brings, is inestimable in helping us to see all the colors and shadings in the complicated rainbow of our lives.