Behind Looking Forward, Ahead, Looking Behind

Two men sat at a bus stop, one young and troubled, the other old and world-worn. They sat and watched cars drive past them as they awaited their own transportation to arrive. The older man glanced sideways at the younger man, who was lost in thought, and a sly grin began to play at the corners of his mouth.

“What’s on your mind, boy?” he asked.

The younger man was startled out of his trance. “W-what?”

The older man sniffed and pulled his coat tighter around him. “There’s clearly something that’s got your goat; why not get it out in the open and talk about it.”

The younger man was confused and surprised. “With you? I don’t know you…”

The older man nodded. “Maybe, but I have an inkling we’ll be able to understand one another just fine; we just might have more in common than you think.”

The younger man collected himself, and the older man continued. “What’s got you so bothered?”

“Well, uh, I’m worried, is all,” the younger man replied.

“Okay, I had that part figured out; what are you so worried about, though?”

“I just…” The younger man sighed and leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees.

“I don’t know if what I’m doing is worth it, you know? I’m struggling every day, chasing after these dreams and pursuing my passions, but nothing seems to be working out. I don’t know if it’s worth my time. I don’t know if my struggles mean I’m on the right path, or if all this adversity means I should turn back and try something else. I don’t want to get older and wish that I had tried harder, or moved on to something else. I don’t want to become an old man who has regrets.”

The older man chuckled. “So don’t”

The younger man shook his head. “It’s not that easy, though.”

“Yes it is. You’re asking yourself all the wrong questions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that you are evaluating your current activities, but it sounds to me like you’re spending far too much time worrying about things and jockeying for position, and not enough time simply living your life.”

The old man sighed and looked up at the sky. “You spend so much time thinking about what is best, and what would be better, that you never truly experience the situations that you’re in. you wanna know what you’ll regret when you’re old? Wasting so much of your time worrying. You’re so focused on the future, that you neglect the present, that I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t recognize the perfect moment if it walked up and kissed you on the mouth.

“Experience it all, soak it all in. Remember as many moments as you can; give yourself as many stories to tell as you can fit into a lifetime. When things are tough, feel every second of it. Understand what it means to be truly struggling. When things are good, relish in it, and store away memories of what life was like when it all went your way. You’re wasting precious time thinking about the road ahead, and nowhere near enough time admiring the scenery around you.

“If you want to know what it means to be human, to be alive, you have to allow yourself the opportunity to live, my boy.”

The young man nodded, soaking in the old man’s words. He glanced down the street, and when he turned back to the man beside him, he was gone. In his place was a piece of tattered paper with a single phrase scribbled on it.

“Every moment is worth remembering, and every breath is worth taking.”

Sixty years later…

The young man had become an old man. As he hobbled his way to the bus stop, he thought that he had wisely traded his youth for experience, and every creak of his knees and ache in his shoulders was living testament to the life he had lived. He sat down, and to his left, sat a young man. He reached into his pocket and felt that old, tattered piece of paper crinkle in his grasp. He glanced sideways at the perplexed look on the younger man’s face, and a sly grin played at the corners of his mouth…

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