The other day I pulled out an old CD I hadn't listened to in a long while. In fact, it had been some time since I listened to anything by PFR, even though they used to be one of my favorite groups.
What caught me off guard was the strength of the old memories that hit me as the CD started playing. PFR was a major part of my personal soundtrack in the mid- to late '90s (my mid- to late 20s), an era that holds a lot of positive memories for me. During that time I met some incredible friends, attended a unique and wonderful church and got promoted to a job I could finally regard as a career. For a while I had an annual pass to Disneyland. It was also within that time period that I went through the Living Waters program which, whatever else I may think of it now, did help me work through a number of personal issues.
If I only focused on my positive memories from that time, it would be easy to look back on those years as the best of my life. But if PFR's music mainly reminds me of those happier moments, then it paints an incomplete and potentially misleading picture.
It doesn't speak to the pain and frustration of building up yet another circle of friends, only to watch them marry off and/or move away one by one, leaving me just as alone as I'd been at the start. It fails to take note of how I traded one form of denial for another, coming to terms with my sexuality just long enough to latch onto the delusion that I was on the verge of growing into my 'natural' heterosexuality. It says nothing about the final two years of that era that I spent in what, in retrospect, was an extremely unhealthy roommate situation and Bible study group; the constant stress I was under during those 21 months (from a variety of sources) probably aged me five or more years.
Of course, dwelling on the negative side of those years can be just as misleading. As with any era, the good and the bad came together - often at the same time. In the long run it's probably better that I spend more time remembering the positive side of that period than the negative, provided I don't become so wrapped up in "the good old days" that I become unhappy with my present situation. And provided I don't start repeating the mistakes I should have already learned from.
Would I ever want to go back and relive those years? Not a chance. But every now and then it's nice to pop in an old CD and remember what was.