Celebrate the Past Or Learn From It

It was January 16, 2002, I was 23, recently married, full-time sports editor for my hometown weekly newspaper and part-time line-cook/bartender at my town’s best bar. Yeah…sweet life.

I was reminded recently of that 23-year-old when a Google search surfaced my final of more than 250 weekly column/diary entries chronicling my formative years writing Going the Distance for the Big Bear Grizzly.

Going the Distance, January 16, 2002

I loved everything about writing that column. It gave me a weekly deadline to download my thoughts. It forced me to journal…in public. And then I stopped.

I don’t remember why I stopped writing when the readers went away. But it makes me wonder where I would be as a writer today if I put more value in the process of writing each week than on the praise I received from those who read my words. Notice and wonder.

Looking back I may agree the life I had at 23-years old was ideal – for who I was at that time. And, honestly a few years ago I was looking back. I was thinking about how things might have played out with different decisions, different choices. Telling myself stories.

Looking back that way leads to dark and unproductive places. It leads to regret. We tell ourselves stylized stories of what might have been. We blame others, and ourselves. Nothing good comes from it.

Hitendra Wadhwa recently reminded me that we only look at our past to celebrate it or learn from it.

So I want to celebrate this choice I made as a young man in a different place and a different time to enter public education. It led me here to a meaningful life with a partner I love, two incredible boys, and a career filled with value and joy. Today I want to give my 23-year-old self a high five.

We either celebrate our past or we learn from it.

Nothing else.

I look at this column I wrote so many years ago, celebrate the life I have now and learn that I should have never stopped writing because the audience went away.

Honestly, I’ve now learned that I get a rush when someone shares, likes, or comments on something I write here the same way someone came into the bar and commented on my weekly musings. I embrace my hubris. But then and now that hit of adrenaline, while important, burns hot and fades quickly.


The meaning I get from the process of articulating these thoughts resonates much longer. It’s a deeper burn, but I don’t get to the sustainable peace without the duality of the Yin Yang of the process and the praise.

I don’t get that same 1-2 benefit from a private journal.


So for my next 70 years, you can find me here at ryansmith.blog. Please subscribe, share, and comment to help me out.

Thank you for listening.

2 thoughts on “Celebrate the Past Or Learn From It

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