I’ve been spending a lot of time dwelling on the past, on things that happened and things that didn’t happen.

Most of my school years are a messy blur to me. There aren’t many concrete events I remember, but I remember the general depression I was stuck in at the time, and how my thoughts always drifted to things I wanted that I couldn’t have.

I wanted to be taller, I wanted to be hotter, to have a close group of friends, a girlfriend, and whatever else teenage boys wanted. I wanted people to go out with, and people who wanted to be with me.

After graduating from high school, I remember sitting on the roof of a multi-story car park late at night, looking at a starless sky in complete disbelief at what had happened. I’d gone through four years of high school, never once having a taste of anything that I thought would make me happy. I went through everything I could remember, trying to piece something together, trying to figure out how things turned out that way.

Was it because I didn’t talk enough when I was little, so I never learned how to talk to people when I got a bit older? Because I went to a predominantly white school and looked different from everyone else? Because I tried to connect with people and kept being socially rejected to the point where I receded into myself?

Probably a mix of all those things. It doesn’t really matter now that it’s over, but to this day, I can’t help but feel I was robbed of my childhood. I mean, the world keeps turning, and I’m still alive. I’ve been starting to have some of those experiences I missed out on.

But it’s a heavy task to make up for lost time. Even if you somehow manage to do all the things you thought you’d be doing as a kid, it’s not the same. Because you’re older now. You’ve seen too much to still be innocent and unaware of the larger world, too much to be able to truly worry about nothing at all except for the present.

I’ll settle into the arms of a partner who cares about me, and they’ll say something off-hand about a relationship or some series of brief flings they had when they were younger, and I’ll remember how starved I was for just a hug. How they did basically everything I wished I could. Then I’ll bury my head in their chest and silently mourn the life I didn’t lead.

I wish I could go back and try it all again. Maybe a different high school, or different classes and meeting the right people that’d open up all the doors, or talking a little differently. But I can’t go back. Nobody can. I lost my childhood, and even doing things now that I wish I could do before won’t fix that.

I don’t think anything happens after we die. I don’t think there’s reincarnation or an afterlife, I think once our brain shuts off, that’s the end of it. Forever. Any suffering you’re going through isn’t some kind of “test” to make sure you’re fit for a higher form of existence, it’s your life. It’s all you’re ever going to get.

That’s why I’m dwelling on it. Because I have to take my lost childhood all the way to the grave, knowing I can’t do it over, and knowing it didn’t make me “stronger.” I am worse because of it. I know I’m not the only one, yours might’ve been taken by mental health issues, a bad living situation, a traumatic event, the onset of a global pandemic or some other horrible calamity. It’s a hard thing to move past, knowing you’ve lost something you can never get back, having to live in the shadow of what wasn’t.

I’m 22 now, and I still don’t know how to move on. I’ve been going to therapy, even though I’ve always been skeptical of it. If it’s something accessible to you, I’d definitely recommend it, it’s helped a lot to have someone to talk to about everything. But I think all anyone can really do is keep going, and hope that one day, you’re far enough from the past that it recedes behind the horizon of memory.