This past weekend I went back to my hometown area to attend the North Carolina Veterinary Conference. It was also the 15th anniversary of my veterinary class. I haven't attended this particular conference in several years. I've also been really bad about keeping in contact with anyone in my class...okay, I haven't kept up with anybody in my class. At first that may be a bit surprising, but when you spend four years of intense time and long days with 70 people you end up getting to know each other pretty well and develop relationships and friendships. For some people those friendships persist, and I know of at least two classmates who opened a practice together. But not me.
Let me set the stage. Back when I was in vet school I was a very different person than I am today. I was moody and petty. I was deceitful and enjoyed trying to manipulate people just to see if I could do it. I treated many people poorly, especially my parents. One of my friends gave me an earring (back when I used to wear one) with the drama happy/sad face masks because she never knew what kind of mood I'd be in. Though I've never been perfect and still am not, during those four years I was the worst person I could possibly be. I'm ashamed of who I was and how I acted, and though I've been forgiven and changed by my relationship with Christ, I'd rather not remember those times.
So the idea of seeing my former classmates actually gave me a sense of dread. These were not bad people and all of them treated me well. But I feel awkward around them now because it's a reminder of who I was and a past I regret. Remember those bad things I did? And remember the many hours per day and per week in close proximity to other people? Looking back I realize that people in my class probably knew more about my sins than I wanted them to, and that I wasn't as smart in hiding things as I thought I was. Revisiting those times in my mind, I wonder what people really thought of me and if those memories would influence their perceptions today.
As luck would have it, I saw several of my classmates and ended up briefly talking to at least a few of them. All conversations were brief and superficial, as I haven't said any words to any of them in 15 years. We were all polite and pleasant and concentrated more on where we are now rather than where we were then. Even so, I deliberately tried to avoid much contact...not because of them, but because of me. I didn't dislike any of them but I certainly dislike my old self. And I wondered what they remembered about me and if they could tell that I was changed. I was unintentionally awkward and distant, which probably didn't help perceptions much.
Our past can never be erased, and even if we've changed in the present we are the result of our experiences and actions. My shameful past led me to a point where I put my faith in God, which lead me to my wonderful wife and great kids. Even though I regret my past, it is no longer who I am. That's something I should keep in mind the next time I run into someone from that time period.