We’re trained to think success, growth and advancement come from relentlessly looking forward.
In its preparative nature, college seems to deem the past dead, the future a commodity – something I’ve pandered to completely. My entire undergrad, I unilaterally thought of my future in a big city, with towers overhead and my mountainous upbringing behind me.
But I changed a lot when I moved away from my hometown in the Adirondacks this past summer to pursue an internship in Buffalo, NY. Since then, I haven’t been shamelessly looking forward, but reminiscing on the past, too. I feel less anxious and, surprisingly, the future seems brighter, less intimidating.
I never saw that change happening, mainly because, as humans do, I morph, mold, bend and twist like playdough between the aggressive fingers of a fidgety toddler; but we usually don’t feel transitions; we chalk that feeling of difference up to environments, the day’s inconsistency, a passing mood until we’re definitively different.
In my experience, college changed me so much that it felt almost shameful to look back on the past – a time when I’d been settled in a far more secluded upbringing with such a smaller scope of life’s possibilities.
But, see, I’ve started to realize appreciating the now – our current – never happens unless we look back, reflect and find solace in our journey, start to current. Otherwise, we’re just growing, but the whole experience doesn’t feel at all personal.
For me, living out that whole “you never know how much you love something until it’s gone” maxim was the only way to see that. Granted, while four months away from home didn’t mean home was gone for good, it felt like it. I’d grown accustomed to revisiting my friends in the summertime and, for the first time, that was gone – likely for life, with internships every summer leading to a potential 365-day career.
Alone in the walls of my Buffalo apartment, I’d consciously flash back to home, surprisingly seeing it in a whole new light. Lonely, like a human can get, the concrete jungle outside my windows became the lake I’d often play in as a child. My living room carpet, the beach’s sand. My kitchen, a hopeful place where I could try to make my mom’s specialties, obviously coming up short with a charred, mud-like piece of meat.
That feeling of loss left me often pondering why I missed something I’d grown to ignore so much. The reason was simple: I was appreciating my roots for the first time since I’d entered college, a place where we’re always focused on the next assignment, interview and (hopefully) dream job.
The geography of my rural upbringing couldn’t be helped, but I was afforded a loving family, one that developed a brain capable of seeing without labels early on.
It’s funny, I’ve had that blessing for 21 years and it took me four months away from that blessing to realize how blessed I am.
In essence, I’m realizing “now” doesn’t feel right without thinking about where you’re from, what’s influenced you to become the person you are.
It gives you a full scope of self. You start to see those saddened early-on memories as doorways to development in tribulation. You’re afforded the opportunity to shed light, from an objective standpoint, on the blessings you’ve probably overlooked.
Recognizing you have that duel-sided past that curated the, yes, beautiful being you are creates a human community between yourself and those you encounter from that point forward.
Often, similarities lie in those common roots, and differences in polarized early-on affordances.
For me, I was gifted the ability to think more objectively and compassionately the day I allowed myself to look back at my roots and see the value in and caliber of beginnings.