Still Got It

I can’t freestyle like I used to. My hip rotators begin to hurt the moment I even think about doing some of the football tricks I once pulled off with ease. But that doesn’t mean I can’t freestyle anymore at all. After years of inactivity, a few days ago, I bought some soccer shoes and a ball. So far, I went out twice and tried some moves. Just for the feeling. It’s nice to see the basics are still there.

Will I ever get back to the golden days? Eight out of ten orthopedists would say it’s unlikely. Aside from the required training, which I lack the time for to begin with, the lower half of my body would not thank me for wandering too far down memory lane. But a little exercise and nostalgia? Both of those can go a long way.

There’s a great How I Met Your Mother episode called “Unfinished,” in which the characters find themselves confronted with the tough reality that they are no longer the people they once aspired to be. Even if Lily still keeps her karate instructor’s number in her phone years after she took her last class, she is not “someone who trains karate” — but as long as she holds on to the number as a token, she still gets to feel like she is.

“Labels expire,” Derek Sivers says. “Be honest about what’s past and what’s present. Retiring outdated titles lets you admit what you’re really doing now. And if you don’t like the idea of losing your title, then do something about it!”

In the end, each of the gang members must let go of a romantic but extinct identity — or double down on it and re-earn their title. No matter which option they choose, however, they all find a sense of peace from their decision. Marshall is no longer in a funk band, but he can still sing to himself while he vacuums his apartment. Ted did not become an architect to build corporate headquarters, but if he takes on the Goliath National Bank project, at least he’ll get to create a skyscraper. And Lily? Well, let’s just say there was an oddly tall student in the next young adults’ karate class.

It’s true that we must keep earning our titles, but if we retain little artifacts from identities long past, we can still enjoy the people we once were, even if we can no longer fully access them. Don’t take your labels so seriously, but don’t underestimate the confidence and happiness boost from a little bit of reminiscing either. Your grasp around your once-favorite habit might no longer be as strong as it was, but you’ve still got it — and that’s as great a reason to look forward to tomorrow as it is one to celebrate yesterday.