In the past two years, I have re-established contact with a series of people from my past whom I had not seen for a total of more than 130 years – a schoolfriend from 38 years ago, a good friend from university (36 years), a group of work colleagues (nearly 30 years), a couple with whom my wife and I had previously enjoyed a great relationship (18 years) and an ex-boss (12 years). And I suspect that many other people have similar tales to tell about rediscovering, if not recapturing (which I doubt is ever possible), some of the more enjoyable periods in our lives.
So, what are the motives for doing this? Is it because I need to recapture a past that was much better than the present? (it was certainly simpler, but today’s comforts – including the ability to communicate my thoughts in the way I’m doing now – make it difficult to counter that argument). Or is it just safer to “live in the past” in order to escape from a present that is complicated, stressful, even frightening? Short of becoming a hermit I just don’t see how such an escape could be effected. Or is it because in most instances I was considerably younger, healthier and fitter then? Well, that is undeniable, but life on a personal level is “all good” as my Californian friends would say.
Or, maybe, for me at least, it is purely because I have more time (far too much, some might say) on my hands now that I am no longer a wage slave. There may be something in that, but these matters had concerned me before that, but I did not, or chose not, to articulate them in this public fashion. And, finally, and on a shallower level, is it mere vanity, a means whereby I can induce more people to say how well I have aged and how young I look? I would hope not, though I can’t deny, nor could you I suspect, that it is nice to told that from time to time!
It may, at least in part, be an intimation of mortality, an understandable symptom of the ageing process, even possibly a need to “make my peace” with those people; to confirm that, when we do part again, as we will surely do, we do so on unequivocally good terms. But that presupposes that the people I am back in touch with, I had fallen out with in the first place – which is palpably untrue. It is a fact that the pace and demands of modern living can, sometimes unaccountably, disconnect us from people we have long regarded as good friends, leaving the embers of Christmas cards and the occasional e mail – and, perhaps, your displacement by other people from their past!
Whilst there is some truth in all of the above, I suppose the simple answer to the question is “because I can” – four of the five reunions have been triggered or facilitated by social networking, with the other the result of the reporting of a major life event. In none of these cases have I pursued or sought out those people because I needed to – in fact, in the majority of instances, it has been the other party that has contacted me, though the experience of resuming contact, once the approach had been made, has been a wholly positive one.
Indeed, regardless of either the route taken to the reunion or the current state of play between the parties, the relationship has enriched my life now, as it had done in the past when we took it more for granted. And not just because it’s “nice” to see “so and so” again. I believe that revisiting some of the good times in our past with people we still value, though we had been long separated, prompts us to think about how we behaved and reacted to experiences then, and how we might learn lessons from that that would enable us to lead more caring, inclusive and uncomplicated lives now in what is unquestionably a more sophisticated and dangerous world.
Psychobabble? Old hippie drivel? Perhaps, but if you find that you too are investing an increasing amount of your time in re-engaging with the scenes and characters in your past, consider how that has affected how you live your life now, and whether it has reacquainted you with values that you may have, on occasion, lost sight of.