Sarah-ious discussions: Living in the past

A girl explores knowledge of the past.

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A girl explores knowledge of the past.

I could tell you that some of us lay awake at night, dwelling on the past. We visit that quiet corner of our minds, walking toward it late at night, early in the morning. We lurk in the shadows peeking at what was, greeting the people we used to be.

Some of us have our eyes open, glazed in longing, while others have one eye closed, hands ready to shield their vision from the devastating affair of viewing their past selves. All of a sudden, everything comes rushing back: the dead awake, forgotten memories magically reappear, people re-enter our lives, the words that flew out of our mouths echo, we’re reminded of that feeling we wanted to forget, we re-live that terrible day, that life-changing moment, that dead friendship. There we are, teetering between the flipping pages of the book of the past.

And for what? A cringe-session? To shame who we were? To humble who we’ve become? To applaud our progress? To wonder: what if? Sometimes, to just weep. For our own subjective need.

I could tell you that some of us have an insatiable need to hold on because the past is comforting for some unexplainable reason. And it makes us think a lot, perhaps helping us forget the present for a minute. And I should tell you that this is an advantage. Because only when we revisit our past actions, wondering whether we were good, wondering if we’ve improved, are we one step closer to embracing our true selves?

And I think many of us know this. Hence photo albums, Facebook memories, story-tellings, and retrospection.

Joan Didion writes: “I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not…Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.”

I believe there’s a strange intimacy that we encounter with ourselves when we visit the past. Perhaps I’m worried about being alone in the dark with me; maybe I’m concerned about who I’ll see in the mirror. Will 13-year-old me visit? Perhaps I’m hoping we get along.

It’s all laid out; the truth is exposing the definition of who we were, an inkling of who we are, a warning about who we may become. And then it’s up to us to determine what happens next. What will the retrieved memories manifest? What do we do with the knowledge of the past?

I take time to understand the present; I ask myself a question I ignored in the past, maybe you should too: Are you OK?