When was the last time you walked into your own past? Until yesterday, it had been 16 years since I stepped foot into my family cabin in Maine. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was keeping me away, but probably more than I’ve ever admitted I was avoiding confronting the loss of the family unit I grew up with. Anger, resentment, multiple deeply-personal versions of a shared experience that no two witnesses can reconcile…you know, that fun breed of personal family history that so many of us can relate to.
Being at the house is exactly the way I remember it. Swimming across the pond is a lot less daunting, but the rocks I painted as a kid are still sitting next to the wood-burning stove. My very dried out Sculpey clay set is still in the play room. The board game boxes are full of my pencil-scrawled score keeping. The hikes feel shorter; my legs are stronger. I had every emotion within these walls and in these woods.
You don’t have to go so far into your past (or, say, across the country) to have moments like this. The movie Eighth Grade (go see it) brought me there. So can looking at old photos or digging into your own email archives. Go to a coffee place you used to frequent or a bus stop where you waited. A week, a month, a year, a decade — go back and send a little love to past you.
Like so many of us, I spent so much of my life wanting to change myself. I see that in every age of my past. At 35, I’m finally trying to get better at that.
Those times when you felt like you had nothing figured out, you were growing and thriving more than you knew. You f-ed up sometimes too. You’re human. You made it through. You made it here.
When did you want nothing more than to be where you are now?
I’ve been trying to see the forest for the trees and a few days away in the forest always seems to help with that. The goals we set for ourselves can keep us captive as much as they keep us going. The pressure we put on ourselves to constantly get better/stronger/thinner/smarter/faster can make it so hard to see how far we’ve come. Coming up with a plan of attack to achieve something is fantastic motivation, but it is not the path to self worth.
The unfortunate spoiler is: when you get to that thing — life stage, dress size, marital or financial status, promotion — there’s just another one waiting. And when you look back at your past and truly see yourself, you’ll be so proud of who you were then and how you fought to be here.
Feeling self-worth in where you are right now is so much easier said than done, I know that. So the best we can do is recognize the challenge and try. And it never hurts to give past you a little more credit than you did at the time.
Hope to see you in the clubhouse soon.