Thanks to a recent trade with someone online, I have come into the possession of a pack of Chicago Cubs playing cards from 7-Up, with a copyright date of 1985. The cards are still in their original shrinkwrap, meaning that for the last quarter of a century, they have been in a state of limbo, waiting to be set free from the clutches of those who see them as simply an investment opportunity. In the 1980s they were practically worthless, in financial terms, but all these years later they could bring 8 to 10 dollars on eBay. But to me, that’s not what they are at all.
This afternoon, as I was looking at the Ryne Sandberg card on the top of the stack, I began thinking about 1985 in my own life. I put the plastic wrapping and the cards inside up to my forehead, and suddenly it all came flashing back to me. I could see, in my mind’s eye, my little room in the basement of my parents’ house. I saw the flimsy wood paneling and frame that was put up in some unused space, to give me a small measure of privacy and escape. I saw the American flag that I used for a curtain over my window. I saw the kitchen table that my family ate at for a decade as I and my siblings were growing up. I saw the gravel driveway that led up the hill toward my house. I saw the car that took me to school and back every day, and the streetlight in front of the house that acted as the call to come in when it started getting dark. I went on an abbreviated walk down memory lane, completely in the recesses of my own mind. And the whole thing left me with an overwhelming sense of sadness.
I was sad not because they were unhappy times, but because they weren’t especially joyful times, either. I wish that I had spent less time waiting for those days to pass, so that I could go away and be anywhere other than where I actually was. I also wish that I had become more emotionally invested in the people and places that surrounded me. Instead, I routinely detached myself from everything and anything I came into contact with in those days. I thought only about getting away, and in the process I missed out on things that I can never get back again. I truly regret the way that I lived my life back then. Regret changes nothing, I know, but it’s also the only thing that I can do at this point. That, and make sure that I don’t make the same mistakes again.
It’s funny that it took some old baseball cards to force a reflection on the detached teenager that I once was. I’d like to go back in time to find that guy, to shake some sense into him. I’d tell that younger me to enjoy the present more, and think about the future less. It will all arrive soon enough, I would tell him, so just remember to look around once in a while, as Ferris Bueller would suggest in a soon-to-be released movie. There is much that can be–and in my case, was–missed out on.
I plan to open these cards one day, since they’ve already put me through the emotional wringer. I’m thinking about it as a liberation of sorts. And I’ll be sure to provide a report when it happens. Until then, I think I’ll just look around for a little while. I hope that you’ll do the same.