I remember going to Prague to study abroad. As a super sheltered kid, it was the first time I felt freedom. Before that, I had never been apart from my parents for more than a week. I was a nerd doing magic tricks for a living, and was watching the last remnants of my first company die out.
But in Prague I was free.
I didn’t have to be a magician, and I didn’t need to be friendless, insecure, sheltered. My company was done for, and I had a fresh start in a new country.
I did some dumb things, but the freedom was addicting. Towards the end of the trip, a deep depression took over me. I realized that I was returning to life as normal. Coming back to Brooklyn meant returning to a psychological place that I tried so hard to get away from.
In my stupidity I believed that only darker times were ahead. That by the age of 21, my best days were behind me. It led to an even deeper funk and some dumb life choices.
I spent my 21st birthday drinking a 40 on a park bench with my last remaining friend. For my 22nd birthday I paid a girl I didn’t know to send me a happy birthday text, to pretend that a female would give me the time of day. I fell in love with not one, but two drug addicts in a row. In fact, I fell in love with any girl that showed me some attention. There was more, but I’m not ready to write about it yet.
I would return to Prague three more times, each time trying to reclaim the magic of that first trip. My life became a depressed wait between trips there. I became a prisoner to nostalgia. It was never the same.
It took a few more lows before I finally looked into a mirror and saw the shell of a person I became. After a few harsh words for my friend, I realized that my path was unsustainable. I finally decided to escape from this infatuation with the past.
I started to believe that my best days were ahead. And suddenly the world had color again. There was hope. There was happiness. There was love. Once I stopped believing the lie that college years were supposed to be the best years of my life, things looked up again.
Nostalgia is a cruel mistress, and I don’t intend to let her own my future. I’ll be 80 years old, and still believing that my best days are ahead.