I can’t get over my past as a loser in my younger days

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male company employee in my 40s, and I’m still suffering from memories of my younger days, when I was a loser.

I didn’t do well at school, and I failed my university entrance exams so I had to try them again the following year. I also quit my club activities at school halfway through. I’m not sociable, so I had few friends, and I had no girlfriend.

On top of all this, I’d often get a stomachache during class and need to go to the bathroom, which bothered the other students. I felt really uneasy when there was no bathroom around. Looking back, I might’ve had some sort of illness.

Since that time, I’ve felt I’m helpless. I’m envious whenever I read a novel or watch a film about club activities or a romantic relationship at a junior high school or high school, even though I’m aware they’re only fiction. I can’t help but think how different I was from the characters in these works.

I got married at long last several years ago and had a child. I think I must live in the here and now for the sake of my loving family. How can I save myself from such painful memories?

A, Tokyo

Dear Mr. A:

You have your own loving family and are trying to live in the here and now for the sake of your wife and child. I think you have quite a fulfilling “now” in which to live.

I understand you want to forget your past as “a loser” when you failed the entrance exams and often faced the call of nature during classes.

However, I can’t help but believe you live a fulfilled life today exactly because you once lived as “a loser.” Some people, like those featured in the films you’ve watched, may have smooth sailing in their younger days, but for people who are always successful, it’s hard to be humble or understand the feelings of unsuccessful people.

You know how painful it is to fail. That means you can understand very well the feelings of people who are disappointed in themselves and depressed, and so can be sympathetic to them. You probably benefit from these qualities today and so attract others to you.

I think you should be proud of yourself because you can be compassionate toward those suffering hardships by turning your hard experiences to your advantage, rather than trying to forget them.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from Feb. 12, 2018, issue)Speech

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