A couple of years ago, on a 4a.m. minivan ride, I had a profound conversation with a close friend which I think we can learn from.
I was driving my friend, Libby, and her three kids to the airport so they could fly to some-city-or-another to meet her husband, Steve, –who is a pilot– and spend some time with him before the next leg of his latest trip. I had met Libby and Steve nearly ten years earlier when we were in our late teens and early twenties (Steve and Libby are slightly older than me), and in the early morning quiet of her minivan I was struck by the bizarreness of the position we were now in. The conversation was short, but I think it holds an important point. It went something like this:
Ian: Man, did you ever think when we first met that I’d eventually be driving you and your kids to the airport in your minivan? We were so young, and now we’re both married and you’ve got three kids. Life is so weird.
Libby: I know! I was just thinking about that! It feels so weird.
Ian: Pretty cool, though.
Interesting, right? I think so.
As I was reflecting on that conversation this morning, I was struck by the profound weirdness and beauty that is the human experience. When I look back at the 17-year-old Ian who first met Libby and Steve, I am amazed by the similarities that still exist between he and I, but also by the profound differences that separate us. In the ensuing twelve years, I have experienced more intense joy and agonizing pain than that teenager ever thought possible. I’ve gotten married, gained friends, lost relationships, buried loved-ones, and had to scramble to survive after the life-plan that I had worked toward since childhood fizzled and died. It’s been an absolutely insane, wonderful, terrifying ride.
And you know what? Thinking about those wonderful, awful, and crazy experiences brings me a deep sense of peace, because they put me on the path to find the man I am becoming today. And I really, really like that guy.
And that, my friend, brings me to the main point I want to make with this post:
It’s important in life to revel in the places we’ve been. Because without occasionally looking backward, we can’t effectively grow and move forward.
In our world today, there is so much focus placed on living mindfully in the moment, living our “best life”, planning and preparing for the future, and manifesting our own destiny through our day-to-day actions, that we can easily forget to take the time to reflect on where we’ve been.
And I think that’s a mistake we shouldn’t allow ourselves to make.
For me, as I take the time to look back, there are certain memories that I wish I could forget and those that I hope to always remember. Reflecting on the bad ones –not judging myself, mind you, but really examining them– gives me powerful reasons to chose my actions and relationships carefully, and the good ones provide guideposts for me to follow as I work to grow and become the guy I want to be.
And I’m sure you have similar experiences.
When in your life have you royally screwed up? Or succeeded beyond your wildest imaginings? What can you learn from past pain and old ecstasy? It can be scary, but I encourage you to take a look. Just make sure you’ve got the time to do it right.
The next time you have some time and space to really delve, I invite you to reflect not on where you are, or where you’d like to go, but to look backward. It can be an intense experience, learning from ourselves can be hard, but I think it’s worth it. Because, when it comes down to it, each of us is ultimately the sum of all of our parts, good, bad, or otherwise.
Thanks for reading, you’ve got this,