Rocks In My Backpack

These are my regrets. By regrets, I don’t mean things that I wish I had done differently, or mistakes that I have made. No, these are the things that I wish could have been different, but ultimately, everyone is better off this way. And I’m sorry I couldn’t have been more, done more. But this is how it is.

The record. An unopened album sits on my desk, not even a foot away from me right now. I keep it, partly because I don’t really know what to do with it now, and partly because it reminds me of my inadequacies, shaming me into striving to be better. It was a gift, something I bought you, something I knew you had been looking for and couldn’t find. I planned to give it to you, as a surprise. And then everything fell to pieces. The things you asked of me, the things you needed from me, I just couldn’t handle. It pushed me beyond my limits, and I’m sorry. What you need and what I have to offer are two very different things. I have nothing evil to say about you, you’re a wonderful person; you’re just more than I can handle. Holding on to you was like trying to fit the oceans in a coffee mug; it’s laughably impossible. It has nothing to do with you. You deserve to have your needs met; it just won’t be by me. So I keep the record, still wrapped in plastic, and every time I see it, it reminds me that some day, someone may ask more of me than I previously thought I could give. Only next time, I’ll be ready. I’ll be better than I am now. If only you could know me then.

The guitar. When I was younger, you taught me how to play music. You spent your Fridays helping me hone my craft. You were strict, but I knew it was because you loved the me almost as much as you loved the music itself. The things you taught me stayed with me, and now, nearly fifteen years later, your words still ring in my mind. You were the first person to push me, and that’s why it hurts me so much to know that I laid down the craft so willingly. It embarrasses me. You poured so much time and effort into finding a way for me to learn, and you inspired me to pursue it. But when you were gone, I realized the passion I had wasn’t for performing, but performing with you. Without you at the helm, I had no reason to stay the course. My true passions lie elsewhere, and there came a day when I had to make a choice. I chose to let it all go, and life has carried me very far from that day, away from the times when my fingers danced across the fretboard. I’m sorry I will never live up to your expectations of what I was meant to be; I realized too late that it was never really who I was.

The college. I have an acceptance letter stashed away in one of these drawers to a school I never attended. This is the only true regret that I have. The one thing in my life that I wish I could take back, the one day I wish I could do over. The day I left your house and crossed state lines to go to orientation at a school far, far away. You always believed in me. You always had my back. You always had my best interests at heart. And you were always right. I knew that. Never once did you steer me wrong. But that day, I thought I was man enough to make my own choices. Now, I suffer for it. Now I wish I had listened. I would do anything to take back the cruel words I spoke to you that day, thinking that I was master and commander of my own life at such a young and naive age. What a fool I was. Perhaps I still am a fool. I don’t know; I don’t have you here to tell me if I’m getting things right or not. Because that argument, that day I made you cry, that day I told you I didn’t care what you thought, was the last day I ever spoke to you. You saw right through me; you knew I wasn’t trying to start new and fresh, but that I was running away from my problems. You knew I was taking the easy way out, and that if I just faced my issues head on, that I could have conquered the world. Obviously, things didn’t work out. Obviously, when you breathed your last, I realized my mistake. By then, it was too late. I should have been there. I should have at least been closer. I should never have said those things. I should have never been that way. I hope you know I am truly sorry.

We all have scars. The sad truth is that the deepest ones are not those inflicted by outside sources, but the ones we give ourselves. Some are unavoidable. Some are the result of youth and stupidity. Regardless, we carry them the same. They never go away. They ache like phantom limbs, creating an itch we can never scratch. But life goes on. I’ve come to embrace the sweet grace of time, as it never lets me sit in one place for too long. I may wallow in self pity for a moment, but the responsibilities of age do not allow me to remain in the mud. I only hope that I can take these moments, these memories, and use them the right way. I hope that I can glean the gold from them and spin it into a beautiful life. That I can gather these scattered lessons and hard-fought truths and mold them to myself, creating a new, better man.

Life has not been easy; mostly because I have not allowed myself to live an easy life. Partly because that’s just the way the cards were dealt. But easy or not, this is the way things are. I wish I could have been better. I wish I could have lived up to my potential. However, all that is behind me, on my back like rocks in a knapsack. The good I hope to take away from this is with each rock and pebble I have collected, I have grown stronger, and with each day that I carry these things with me, I am able to stand a little taller. Some day, I will be able to look back on all that I have done and be proud. Not of my mistakes and shortcomings, but of the human being that I became because of them. You always told me that we learn more from our failures than our successes; if that’s true, someday, I’ll be a damn genius.

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