Actually no. I realised that it did seem like a long time ago. The biggest difference was how I felt. Walking down that street again evoked in me a Proustian rush, I recalled just how free and excited I felt back then. I'd made a big change to my life and uprooted myself. The possibilities appeared endless, above me an infinite blue sky that reflected my state of mind.
I instantly became depressed. Things were so much more negative and gloomy now, the world a far more depressing place. What was it that had changed so much so as to skew my outlook to such a large degree?
Aside from the passage of time I could think of very little. OK, so I was now older but all that really meant was a few more pounds, a few more wrinkles and a few less hairs on my head. Surely that wasn't enough to have knocked my mood so badly off course over the period of a decade and a half? Other than that I was still in employment, single (which can be seen as both a positive and negative thing) and if anything better off and more financially stable than I had been in 1998. Furthermore in the intervening years I'd actually achieved a few things which the younger me would probably have been quite pleased with.
Why did I feel so trapped? There was no logical reason for me not to feel just as optimistic as I had back then and yet in comparison to times past I felt as if I was looking at the bright warm world through thick iron bars, locked up in a prison in my head, barely able to turn around in my cell. No hope, no future, no change in sight. The memory of how I used to feel was just another torture, taunting me with a glimpse of how I could never feel again.
It was obvious that I was my own jailer. I'd locked myself in there, the bars were of my own making. The opportunities and hope I felt all around me back in 1998 were all still there, and there was no reason I could not still grab hold of them with both hands in the way I perhaps should have back then. I just had to break out of the prison.
I am still not convinced that I have, but the sense that the bars were illusory is stronger now than it has been for a very long time. The only thing holding me back is myself which raises the question of why I have been doing it.
It could be fear of failure or fear of the unknown or perhaps a lack of imagination? Or maybe my surroundings having grown so familiar that I simply forgot how much potential lay within them.
There is nothing I cannot try. Who says I have to go home and go to bed after work every single day? There are a million things I could be doing and I have no excuse not to do as many of them as I can.
I am cutting through the bars with an oxyacetylene torch.
Once I have done so the trick will be to keep reminding myself that they don't exist.