Lately, I have done more reflecting on life than I remember doing in the past. Although my birthday is approaching in a few months, it is not a “milestone” birthday and nothing significant seems to have triggered this sudden look into my past.
So, that’s not it.
Although, the only thing that seems to have caused this glance into the “rearview mirror” seems to have been found in some recent medical scares that made me take a hard look at not only where I’m going, but also where I’ve been.
Too often, we find ourselves captivated and engrossed in daily living and planning for the future, that we forget to stop for a minute and just take in the journey we have taken so far.
Most of our journeys would have included some roads we never expected, never wanted, and never saw coming. Although we can wish we hadn’t live through some tough times, we also wouldn’t be where we are without them. The lessons we learned along the way may have made us more cautious or less adventuresome, but accept that we needed them all.
When we were younger, our entire lives were in front of us with hopes and dreams to chase. We hadn’t yet fully understood what it felt like to fail or when it meant to feel fear the way we do now.
Encountering new tasks like riding a bike became rites of passage and even after we fell and skinned up our knee, we jumped back up on that seat, determined to be successful.
Our lives could be anything we wanted.
The unknown didn’t frighten us.
The lack of trust hadn’t yet been created.
We hadn’t yet learned which friends were nice to us in 5th grade only to pretend we didn’t exist in 8th.
You hadn’t yet failed a test in school, been pulled over by a cop, or been dumped by someone you loved.
No, those lessons come later. They come throughout your journey.
I understand why looking ahead is important. It is where our future is created. It is where we still chase those hopes and dreams, although they may look a little different than they did when we were five years old.
It is where we still are curious about tomorrow.
It is where we find hope.
It is where everything we haven’t done yet remains, waiting to be discovered.
Why does looking back at our lives make a difference?
It’s over, so what good does it do me now?
Maybe we aren’t leaving bread crumbs behind us as we journey, as we have no intention of going back to where we once were, but we can’t ignore our past either.
It is more important than we give it credit.
So how do we use it?
We retrace our steps, but only to observe. We cannot undo what’s been done. We can’t change the memories we have to create a different truth. Instead, we take those lessons learned and apply them to today. Today’s moments will be used tomorrow.
We remember what matters. Our best moments are the ones we treasure with the ones we love and everything else that seems important at the time really falls away as our focus is on things that cannot be replaced.
We fall in love with life again. We set aside our hesitations and fears and, quite honestly, realize that we are running out of time. Maybe that reminder comes because of something we experience personally or because of something that just impacts us in ways we haven’t felt before, but we understand the ramifications of living with regrets.
We affirm our legacy. The impact we leave on others may never be truly understood, but by sharing our story, we become connected to the others in this world. Without knowing it, we inspire others through those same struggles we fought through earlier in life.
We appreciate our health. Let’s face it. We aren’t as young as we once were and yet there is something to be said for the wrinkles on our faces and the creaks in our limbs. We’ve made it this far and we understand that many others are not as lucky as you are right now.
Thinking about our past not only reminds us where we have been, but in my case recently, it reminds me of the places I have yet to go. It tells the world of the story I have written so far and the pages that yet remain unwritten. We begin to dig a little deeper into our souls, aren’t afraid to say “NO” to what we don’t want in our lives, and allow ourselves to be a little more genuine and authentic.
We all start in the same place and we all end in the same place too.
It is only in the steps we take, the roads we take and don’t take, the people we meet along the way, and the experiences that define our lives and contemplating all of that every once in a while might be a stark reminder of just how quickly life passes by and we appreciate the memories we still can visit from time to time.
Life is busy enough. Take time to stop and look back every once in a while. Believe it or not, your past will help you in your future more than you think it will.
Looking back always helps you look forward.