“that’s the thing about North Americans. They’re impatient. Always looking for the next thing. Itching for something new. I blame that for why families are disintegrating here. It’s from the movies, the music. Always impatient.”
-The Doctor in Seat 3A, as I sat in 3B
always forward, never back
On my last birthday, I sat down and put together a list. It was a long list. It was a list of all my most recent mistakes, and it wasn’t fun to write. HBD to me.
Cringing at each addition to the list, I reminded myself it was okay. Those things were behind me. I made a personal promise not to revisit anything on the list, to only seek out new things in the next year of my life. Always forward, never back.
When things came back around (as they do), I made that my mantra. Always forward, never back. I wasn’t about to make the same mistakes again, I’d learned my lesson the first (or third, or fourth) time. There’s no point visiting the places we’ve already been. Right?
two steps forward, one step back
It seems like we can always know when we go too far, because something is always right there, snapping us back into place. Sometimes it’s a gentle nudge, minor setbacks reminding us to reflect for a minute, reconsider going any further. Sometimes it’s a massive push, big accidents that stop us in our tracks and force us back to square one.
Its thanks to events like these that we believe in fate. Things happen for a reason. This was supposed to happen. It was a sign. If things that happen to us have been pre-ordained, its easier to accept them and the consequences that may ensue. This is very helpful in some ways; if we took full personal blame every time something bad happened, it’d be tough to do anything at all.
The fine print of taking the “so it goes” outlook is as follows:
Consumer is fully liable for unwanted side effects, including but not limited to-
- assigning undue meaning to minor events,
- failing to take ownership for personal actions
- clouded personal judgement
- paralysis via a cemented belief that what is meant to happen, will happen, absolving oneself of personal responsibility for one’s own course of action.
Learning the limits of what you can and cannot control in your life is tough. The hardest part of this is the nonsensical nagging question – why? Why did this happen? Why can’t I be in control? Why can’t I fix this? Why can’t I just do what I want? We feel entitled to an answer, and usually an immediate one. You can’t google your way out of this, and there’s no wikiHow explaining (with pictures) how to respond when life gives you lemons. For a millennial leaving school, the school of life delivers a swift and rude awakening to the fact that we aren’t invincible; a linear upward trajectory is impossible. That’s not how the real world works- there’s no such thing as a perfectly straight line.
“You can’t control everything, but you can control your responses.” A few punches in, your reaction speed improves. You learn how to minimize damage and recuperation time, making a speedier recover at each blow. You realign as necessary. You get very good at responding. You get good at defense. And somewhere along the way, you forget that defense isn’t the only position.
You expect the next push. You justify running slower, or less far, because you know that for every two steps forward, you’ll be taking one back. You start to forget that you get to set the agenda, even when the agenda is open for edits, and is liable to get eaten by your dog at any time. You’re still the boss.
“Enjoy your twenties. Experience everything- make lots of memories. They’re like a movie, you can play through them at anytime. I know I do.”
-The Doctor in Seat 3A, as I sit in 3B
When things come back around (as they do), it’s fun to put the memories on replay. Whether you prefer to replay the good parts or the bad parts- chances are that when your past comes back to haunt you, you’ll put a little life into the memory for at least a moment. Depending on the moment, we might even take our ghosts to be that gentle nudge to realign – choosing to fall back in line with our past selves.
If you prefer to play back the good- you know that nostalgia is a silent killer. It’s easy to indulge yourself by letting the good ghosts stay, easier than remembering why it’s a ghost in the first place. If you ever read J.K. Rowling, you can relate this to the tale of the second brother and the resurrection stone (Rest in Peace).
As recent graduates with B.A.’s and BSc.’s writing job applications, grad school applications, and cover letters of all kinds, one of our favourite lines is “I would love the opportunity to put theory into practice.” In theory, we learned a lot from our past mistakes. In practice, it’s hard to walk away from the past. It’s easy to justify coming back. You can revisit the same place a million times, and notice something new every time.
There’s no such thing as a linear upward trajectory. But- we all still need a guideline to follow, something to be pushing towards. Otherwise, we find ourselves running in circles that don’t even resemble circles, moving all over the place. (Another thing about millennials: we fucking love abstract art)
This one has been personal in the vaguest terms possible, because the past month has been made up of zig zags, on multiple levels, and a lot of personal deliberation about how to set out a good course for myself. What sets our ideals? What drives what we do? Who drives what we do? What should we try to control? Do I have a lot more control than I’m letting myself believe? Am I too impatient? Probably.
The new and uncharted, the next best thing, it’s always just around the corner. It’s fun to seek out new things. It feels good to “move forward”, if moving forward means only going to uncharted waters.
I keep finding myself back in familiar places, and wanting to stay. It’s comforting. Things that seem the same on the surface are always revealing new parts of themselves- that’s part of what makes the past so pretty.
Currently seeking: wikiHOW- How to Effectively Take Ownership of Your Life (with Pictures)