Living a life that honors all versions of you / by Kiran Umapathy

Many people wish to live a life of no regrets. My hope is similar and I express that as living a life that honors my past and present self. One that hopefully my future self can be proud of too.

When I talk about my past self, I tend to think of it as what my high school self would think about where I am now. If I could go back in time and tell him where he’s at, would he say, “Whoa, that’s incredible/inspiring/exciting” and “You really fucking went for it and took some risks,” or would he say, “You gave in and settled like the rest of them. I thought you knew better.” I don't know, maybe some of you would scream at the thought of listening to your high school self, but I wasn't a bad kid and in some ways managed time better than I do now.

Regarding my present self, I ask, “Does the way I’m spending my days align with what makes me feel alive, and if not, am I doing something to make the transition possible eventually? Am I ignoring that gut feeling inside of me that dully throbs when I ignore it?” That is not to say every moment needs to be brimming with excitement. Chasing pleasure 24/7 does not lead to happiness, but you don't need to deny all urges either.

So, that brings us to the future self. There isn’t a surefire way of knowing what your future self will think, but we can notice trends from what older people tell us. Some have said they wish they saved more, partied less, or didn’t work so hard.

I think for me, there’s a balance to strive for. I want my future self to say, “You took risks and made yourself uncomfortable to experience life and grow, but you weren’t reckless either. You were responsible when you needed to be. You learned that life is not just about you and helped others." Again, I don’t know what my future self will think, but perhaps it’s wise to consider. Either that or lose yourself in the present. Dwelling incessantly on the past seems like an awful way to go.

I want to respect all versions of myself because they each have their own wisdom. People say that youth is wasted on the young, but I don't think that's necessarily true. Youth definitely can waste time stressing about things that don't matter, but youth knows how to be creative and have fun. It has a harder time accepting things as the way things are and challenges the status quo. The world needs that badly! When you respect the present, there’s a greater likelihood of being happy. Older age is wise because it knows when something is really worth freaking out about it. Hopefully we learn to focus on what we have control over and what’s worth giving a fuck about.

I haven’t always honored these versions of myself, but that’s okay because I’m human. I’ve made mistakes three and four times just to know for sure they are mistakes and the truth is that half the time I feel like I’m flailing away, experimenting, and trying my best, because I don’t know what I’m doing. Claiming anything to the contrary seems like I’m lying to myself.