As you already know, I’m a bit of a sucker for the whole ‘your past defines your future’ philosophy. It’s all connected, which leaves very little room for regrets and ‘what ifs’. Strictly speaking, your past happened the way it did because it had to make way for the life you lead now and the future that awaits you. Or did it?
The truth is, it’s easy for someone like me to stand up and say ‘I don’t believe in regrets.’ The only thing remotely life changing that I could possibly regret would come from breaking up with someone. Even still, no matter how much I might think losing that person was the worst thing that ever happened, I already know that in the exact same number of ways, it was probably the best thing too. They didn’t get abducted. You’re both happy. The world continues as it was.
The reason I’m asking whether it’s OK to dwell on the past isn’t because I’m debating whether it’s acceptable to sit and mope over an ex, a family feud, or a fall out with a childhood friend. These are all factors in your life you can attempt to change if you really want to. And if your attempt fails, at least you know you tried. You can move on with peace of mind. No, the reason I’m asking this is because, for the first time in my life, someone incredibly close to me passed away. I went to a funeral for the first time. I mourned the life of someone for the first time. I know this seems like an incredibly morbid topic for a silly little blog, but I’d much rather sit and think about this, and get you thinking, than bang on about what I had for dinner last night.
The truth is that the past isn’t really the past until it becomes something completely unchangeable; something you can no longer reach or carve out for yourself. Anything else is just a factor in your life that you may or may not choose to do something about. So, what do you do when the unchangeable has an intensive hold over you? In my opinion, dwell on it. Dwell on it until you’ve used up every last drop of thought and feeling associated with it, and then stop dwelling on it. Your past doesn’t just define your future, it is the reason you are doing exactly what you are at this very second, thinking those exact thoughts. It would be wrong to block it out entirely. It sounds obvious, but always use what’s happened to you to your advantage, and to the advantage of everyone around you.
I think we all know that the past can be a precarious place to dwell. You’re likely to tread by many holes that you’ll be tempted to fill up with your own imagination, giving nostalgia a chance to take over and make you believe that there’s no better place for you. At the same time though, dwelling in the past can be a healing process; a chance to briefly reencounter things just to remind yourself that they happened and why. A chance to look over your life and either smile or want to make it better… Oh God, I’m starting to sound like Michael Jackson in ‘Heal the World’.
Anyway, I actually took a little plunge into my own past very recently. I paid a visit to my University birthplace for a few days. My primary reason was to visit some of the best people I know at the end of their fourth and final year in Exeter. However, I will admit to being simultaneously intrigued by the idea of reliving my student ways (which I did). I’m pleased to say that I came out the other side no longer craving to be a student. I had a feeling of completion. It was fun, but I’m in the next phase of my life now. The stupid thing is that I actually felt like that when I graduated last year, but nostalgia had started to gnaw away at me and convince me otherwise. I guess sometimes coming face to face with the past is the best method of moving on. And the best part? The feeling that even though I no longer wish to live on beans on toast and Tesco Value Vodka, the friends I made remain a huge part of my life.
I guess that’s the motto to apply to the broader picture: leave the crappy parts behind, and take the good stuff with you. Don’t get confused between the two, and if you’re unsure, take a dive backwards and remind yourself, whether it be to a physical destination, or amongst your deepest darkest thoughts. Don’t be afraid to mourn the past. Only, don’t be afraid to leave it behind.