Why do we spend so much time thinking about the past?
In June, I moved from Cullowhee, North Carolina to Dayton, Ohio. I came to Dayton not only searching for a new me, but rapidly running from an old one. At this point, I was running from everything. Mostly because I had gotten to a point where every little thing, felt like everything. The little stressors in life turned into things that took weeks for me to address and process. My thoughts would come and go, often too quickly for my mind to keep pace. It’s difficult to maintain any pace and feel like you are succeeding when your mind is never completely processing thoughts; but instead, only loading each to 75%. The past had become something I was both running from and trying to glorify at the same time.
I think the reason we spend so much time thinking about the past is simple; it’s easy to glorify. It’s easy to glorify the past because it can be whatever we want it to be. The bad memories, easily forgotten and replaced by the good ones that we will “wish we had back.” We begin reaching back out to those people or situations which have provided us comfort before, and blind ourselves to the reason we left and the work it took to leave. Too often, our familiarity with the past can be more comforting than our present or future.
Now, just 8 months later, I sit writing a Sundays with You because I want to, not because I need to or even feel like I need to. It’s weird to say that I am a different person from the person in June who was running, because I know it’s still me here. But I do feel different. I feel like the world is less heavy and that the days are longer (in a good way). But what has changed?
Often now I will hear “I want the old me back” or “if I could go back to ___ I would”. Why do we cling to the past as if we didn’t make intentional decisions to make the past … the past? Working to get the “old you back” can be somewhat detrimental. I think to an image of an elderly man struggling at each attempt with his shovel to dig closer and closer to his goal; only to give up with the goal merely inches out of reach. What if working to get that old you back, is just treading over the path of progress you so tiredly created?
A lot has changed since moving. Being here in Dayton, at times, has felt lonely. Coming from a city of 6,000 to a city of nearly 160,000 people, that was something that seemed like the least of my worries. Yet, there I was feeling lonely because I had ran so hard trying to leave the past behind me, I also left nearly everyone behind me. Fortunately, Dayton has been the exact landing grown I needed. Dayton doesn’t feel like home, I don’t think it ever will, but it has been a great place for me to stop running. At Dayton, I have slowly started to be capable of loving myself again. This has allowed me to pick my head up, look around, and realize that there were a lot of people who loved me even while I couldn’t see it. While I refused to see it. Does that realization make sense to you?
I’ve found it increasingly more difficult to do the job I do since rekindling this understanding of how present-day happiness can feel. It’s easy to sit and give advice to those who are sitting in the same dark room as you, but not so easy when you are trying to give directions to those in darkness while you sit in the light. It’s hard to look at someone who is struggling and want to say “you can truly be happy if you just let yourself be” when you know you would have dismissed the same words only months ago. Knowing that most students are already treading over that path of progress because they find themselves lost and searching for comfort. The feeling of “Who I am!” one day to “Who am I?” the next is not something that can be simply addressed when someone asks, “How are you?” in passing. I find it difficult because I know the running never seems to end until it just finally does end. Until you find your landing ground. I think it’s so difficult now because the past is something I no longer wish to glorify, but instead except the good and the bad which have led me to the present. The “what ifs” and the “I could have done this” will eventually drive us all into the ground if we let them. So, why let them? But how I relay that and get everyone to understand? I am not sure yet.
I type up all these Sunday morning thoughts with you to share a few thoughts I had this week:
What is it that you are glorifying about your past? Are there things still in your present only because you are hanging on to comfort from the past? What needs to change for you to stop thinking so much about the past? How do you know when change “should be made” before it becomes “change needs to be made”?
It’s never good to live in the past too long., even with the comfort it may seem to bring. As for the future, while it might not always be everything you want it to be, it can still be anything you let it be. Maybe your best “you” is always still to come, not one that has already passed by.
Thanks for stopping by every week and letting me spend these Sundays with You.
-Colin Lane Croat