There are hundreds of inspirational quotes and people who all say the same thing: live in the moment. You can find thousands of messages all telling you that the only thing that matters is the here and now. The past is over and the future isn’t here yet, so let’s all be present and enjoy every moment that comes our way. It’s a quality I find admirable and one I struggle with every day of my life. The problem with living in the moment is that it’s so hard to forget about the history that came before it.
Everyone, every place, everything has a past. The events that have shaped us into the people we have become are vital to our personal evolution. Great memories were formed in yesteryear, as were poor decisions and tragic mistakes. We learned, we changed, we repeated mistakes, we became stronger. We became who we were meant to be.
I was talking to someone the other day who said, “The past doesn’t matter. What matters is right here, right now.” To a certain extent, I agree with that statement, but to a possibly even greater extent, I disagree. I am who I am today because of what I have been through. There have been moments of great heartache that have made me a little more callous than I once was and definitely more fearful than I ever dreamed I would be. I progressed in some ways and regressed in others. Through it all, I have always been me, whatever it is that most present version looks like at the time.
Just like I have evolved, I am always curious to see what circumstances shaped other people. What have you been through? What have you learned? What do you still struggle with? Some people, understandably, have a difficult time talking about their pasts and opening up to a person right in front of them. When you share what you’ve been through, it’s often like picking at scar tissue. Yes, there once was a wound there and if you continue to scratch at it, it will reopen and hurt all over again. It’s a lesson in vulnerability and not one of the most comfortable places for anyone.
As much as I like getting to know someone’s history, I understand how damaging that can be and prod a little less than I would like when I can sense a particular topic is painful. Sometimes, this is for my own peace of mind. Someone else’s past can make you question your present and compare yourself to episodes long since over. There is no sense in constantly rehashing past events. They can’t be changed and who knows what kind of person you would be if they were. Certainly not the person you are today.
And I guess that’s the most difficult of it all. How do you get over the past without your present and future being impacted?
Even though I have a hard time forgetting my own past and getting over the insecurities those situations have long since left behind, I try my damnedest to move forward, to keep going after what I long for. It is a constant battle when the demons whisper into your ears, “This is going to be just like last time. You will be hurt. You will fail.” When you’ve been disappointed, it’s hard to believe that not all people will disappoint you. When you’ve been hurt, it’s hard not to keep those emotional walls from building up and keeping people from getting too close to you. When you’ve been betrayed, it’s hard to believe that there are trustworthy folks who would never do that to you.
Overcoming your past requires a great deal of strength and perseverance. It can be one of the most uncomfortable exercises you’ll ever do in your life and one that, just like going to the gym, requires a constant commitment to see results. To move past everything you’ve been through is battle of you vs. you. You’ve come this far, why not keep going?
I know I’m still working on it.