I’ve written a lot about these t-shirts and what they remind me of but haven’t really explored why I kept them in the first place. 

Most people I imagine would look at this old, faded, battered t-shirt and wonder why it hadn’t been relegated to the rag box in the garage. Why was it hanging in the closet or folded in a drawer? I’m reading “The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business” by Charles Duhigg right now and it opens up a whole raft of things we do because of cues we take from the outside world. This t-shirt is a cue for me.

When I see it I don’t see the holes and the flaws. I see the hard fought games, the losses and the wins, sure, but I also see the past. I see a way I once was with all my shortcomings and positive attributes, some I’ve lost and some I still have. I see dedication and commitment and innocence that I know now sometimes elude me. But it’s not only the things that I see there, it’s the things that I don’t see that make this and all the other t-shirts special.

I don’t see the depression and entanglements of adult life that have sometimes dogged me since then. I don’t see the cynicism and analysis about what’s in it for me that have become part of my psyche with sometimes unflattering regularity. I don’t see the way I am now; I see the way I was.

It’s not all good and it’s not all bad. Age, experience and some maturity have taught me that things are rarely the way we see them and even more rarely how we remember them. Those three have also taught me the good old days weren’t always all that great. There was a lot of growing up that was done in this t-shirt and, if I’m honest, a lot of growing up what wasn’t done that I’m still working on today.

So why keep a ratty old t-shirt? Especially since the memories it brings back are a mixture of good, bad and ugly? It’s probably because they are that mixture. Probably because they remind me that this life, this experience, continues to teach me things and push me into places that I never intended to go. It’s the loss of miscarriage, the elation of fatherhood, the heartbreak of bankruptcy and the

salvation of faith that I never saw coming. Hard to believe all that could be wrapped up in a little cotton and screen-printing isn’t it? I’m amazed by that almost as much as I’m amazed by life and our minds and how they work.

Our memories, whatever the cue is for them, are precious. It’s why Alzheimer’s and dementia scare the hell out of me. It’s why I get all sappy when I take that mental walk down memory lane. I remember the great times, the not so great times and the person I was while I was in them; sometimes a better man and sometimes a much worse one. But always in awe of this rich, heartbreaking journey of life.

I know it’s pretty philosophical for a Friday but how does life surprise you (good or bad)?

Maybe you have a friend who is wrestling with regret or nostalgia that keeps them mired in the past that might appreciate this? If so, please share it with them. It might be a way to open up a conversation you’ve been intending to have with them. 

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