The past is a strange thing. We are constantly looking back, trying to figure out what went wrong and what we should have done differently. But in doing so, we get stuck obsessing over things that are no longer relevant to the present.
When I was a little girl I used to love picking up crystal like stones of a sandstone paved street from a high school where my uncle was the school head. I used to say one day they will be worth lots and I will be rich. Sometimes I imagined myself meeting a handsome prince and he would use my jewels to make me a crown like no other ever seen in this world…
Fast forward to now. I am in my mid-40s and single – no prince in sight and above all, I threw away my “jewels” a long time ago. They were just dirty old stones after all, and I could not quantify their worth. They were the past, and just a memory – so I thought.
I had a strange dream about the stones a few day ago. I had gone searching for them once more and in them I was convinced I would find my key to happiness. In the dream I also encountered an old man who was tending the road. And when he saw me walking about the road searching for the precious stones in silence. It was just at the end of the dream he finally spoke to me and said: “You should stop looking into the past to find your joy. Look into the present and there your future will be. The stones are long gone.”
Very “Yoda- Esque” I know. But the dream was so vivid, and I woke feeling that whatever of the past I was hanging on to in order to be happy was about to be let go. I had to listen to my spirit voice and stop using my ego to explain away whatever my situation was.
Past memories are a strange thing…Hold on too tightly and you'll be bound to them forever, knowingly or unknowingly. Most of us have memories where we were once deliriously joyful. For some reason our minds revisit those places in times of need but for some we hang on to the past and what could have been and forget to also live in the moment. We forget to be happy and start using the phrase “if I had this” “if I had done that”. We see time moving on and adding to more pasts but we wait and hang on to the one moment that would have made us happy.
I have been on a mission to reflect on what experiences from the past I am hanging on to. Curate them and use them as a tool for learning and growing but never let it define who I am now. The epiphany that has been repeated over time is that life is a journey and so much more than the sum of its parts. It is a collection of experiences, some good and some bad – and it's up to us to decide which ones we allow to change us.
In learning to listen to my spirit’s voice I now ask myself: What are you doing? What are you hoping to find? Why has it been hard for you to let go? What will change now that you are here?
"Sometimes the truth hurts. And sometimes it feels real good."
- Henry Rollins
When you honestly answer those questions then you will then realise how strange it is to hang on to so many old memories. Memories are just that. Memories. They should not have a strong hold on us. Yes, they help shape our story. But we are also not our past. We are the experiences we make now.
If you try to hold on to lost memories, then you will never truly experience new ones. It is better to focus on what is going on in the now.
For twenty years I held the memory of the stones and it affected my psyche when it came to other opportunities I figured I had missed. Many a time I would find myself thinking about the past and what could have been. And when I snapped back from my daydreams of what could and would have been, I would soon see that nothing had been achieved yet and I had not fully lived.
It's normal to feel nostalgic. But it's not healthy, especially when you focus on past mistakes and missed opportunities. Lost memories are a waste of time and energy, which you could use to accomplish something better now.
If you find yourself constantly bringing up the past, it may be time to start looking at what you have learned from that experience and move forward.