By Adam Wilkinson
Think about the day you had today.
Were you productive? Did you enjoy your day? Did you work for improving your future? Did you enjoy living in the moment? If you answered yes to any or all of the above, your past had a big role to play in your present. You may not have realized how or pin-pointed the connection, but it did.
Life is balance. We live life in one-third increments: a past, a present and a future.
Ideally, we must balance the three. If we constantly work and live for our future, we never have time to appreciate the present. If we only live in the present, we are never prepared for the future. And yes, if we live only in the past, we will never make progress through life. Even a combination of enjoying the moment while working for tomorrow can throw us off our tracks.
So often I hear people say or read quotes that tell me, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way…” Or something along the lines of, “Keep moving forward, if you live in the past, you will be constantly running in circles.” I see and hear so much more negativity when referencing the past than I do the other two thirds of our lives. It has begun to crawl under my skin.
Why does our past have to be associated as a negative?
Out of the three, the past gets the worst rap of them all. Many people find that our pasts have little benefit to who we are and who we will become. I find this to be a grave error in judgement. Sure, I understand that we all have had to endure painful memories in our past, but those pains helped mold us in to stronger people. Without those painful reminders, we can sometimes lose the vision to push on through hard times. If we have done it before and remember our triumphs, we can overcome more obstacles in the present or the future.
There are good moments from our pasts, too, that bring a sudden smile to our face when revisited in our hearts and minds.
I am a firm believer in honoring and respecting our pasts; the good times and the bad—the mistakes and the successes. A quote that suits my understanding of respecting the past a little better is, “If we forget where we came from, we will never make it where we are going.” Our pasts are a part of us no matter how much we try to, or want to, forget it.
My past has spanned the spectrum of unforgettable memories and life experiences to shameful acts and painful memories. Yet, I choose to remember and honor them all. I do not wish to close the door on any of it. My past made me the person I am today. My past gives me moments of reflective bliss and harmony. I do not wish to block those memories and experiences. Instead, I wish to incorporate them into my daily life.
I want to feel the balance of living in the present, preparing for the future and remembering and reflecting on my past.
I like to stop every now and then and turn around and recall a glorious moment in time I shared with a person or did something that once made me happy. For what is in the past is typically not in my present, nor is it planned for my future. Yet it is still a part of me. It helped me grow. It makes me feel complete.
The painful memories of my past still serve a purpose, too. They remind me of my strength to overcome obstacles and to never give up. Living in the present and preparing for the future can propose challenges at times and this is when I turn to those not-so-proud moments to help keep me going. They remind me of the journey I have traveled and all I have endured.
Every day something will happen that will remind me of a moment, an activity or even a person who once brought me great joy or pain from my past. I choose not to forget either the harmony or the suffering. That is why I never close the door on anything from my past. If it once brought me happiness, it can again. If it did not, perhaps it is fate’s way of giving it another chance to turn agony in to joy.
To feel complete, the past, present and future must be in balance. If we neglect the past, the one with the bad rap—the one that many preach to ignore and move forward from—we stumble. We are the sum of all the time we spend on this earth. All of our deeds during this time add up to define who we are. Let us not brush off our pasts so easily. Let us not forget the good and the bad so quickly. There are always new lessons to learn even by revisiting old stomping grounds and reconnecting with people from our past.
I have never met a person who has not spoken fondly of some day from their past. The past is not some arbitrary experience we must go through to reach better times. For some, our best moments lay in the past. However, even for those people, each day provides us with an opportunity to create a beautiful life experience that can surpass events from the past or even plant the seed for a wonderful moment in the time to come.
I, personally, will never turn my back on happiness.
Whenever or wherever the happiness occurred, the door will always remain open. I will not choose to keep my head positioned forward as I live my life in the present, enjoying the moments while preparing for the future. Some people will refuse to re-examine or open the doors to their pasts and that is their choice.
While I do respect their choice, I choose balance. I choose to respect and honor all of the parts and times in which I have lived; all of the people, places, experiences and simple things in general that made me happy.
My goal in life is to be happy. I find happiness in all three time stages in my life. I believe that my happiness, or the happiness others find, can be infectious.
A beautiful flower comes from a seed. We often gaze at the flower in its present beauty and we neglect to remember that it was once a seed. That seed needed nurturing to survive. That flower now needs a proper environment to maintain its beauty. But let us not forget for if it wasn’t for the seed, we would not have the beauty to gaze upon.
“What’s past is prologue.” ~ William Shakespeare.
The past is a part of the process.
Adam Wilkinson, high school Social Studies teacher by day, freelance writer and free spirit by night. Firm believer in fate and that all things happen for a reason. Worshiper of the sun, ocean and the stars. Lover of tattoos, deep intellectual conversations and meaningful connections with like minded people. A jack-of-all-trades, so to speak. Someone once said of me, “You’re a lot of things, but one thing you never are is boring!” Words spoken from someone whom I’ve had a close bond with most of my life and words that I have always tried to uphold. “Vive intenso!”
Editor: Alicia Wozniak