Are we really products of our past?
I’ve heard the expression “we are products of our past” or that “our past defines us” more than I can count. In past interactions and relationships with people, have you noticed in yourself how many times we equate our behavior and choices to a past experience? We meet a great person but we don’t let them in because we’ve been hurt in the past. We pass on new experiences and opportunities because our past has taught us that we aren’t good enough. We lash out at people for no reason and blame our conditioned reactions on past experiences. We have a tendency to use unfortunate circumstances from our pasts as a cushion when we don’t make the best of choices and therefore, we’re always reliving them. We blame our childhoods, families, ex boyfriends and girlfriends, our losses and our frustrations with what is for why we can’t move forward. A few nights ago I was introduced to the idea that we are not really products of our past but rather, products of our futures. It didn’t make sense at first but as I continued to explore this idea I realized a lot of it rang true.
Think about a typical person’s work schedule for instance - most people have a Monday to Friday 9-5 schedule, as did I at one time. If you were to visit that office on a Friday afternoon everyone there would probably be in great mood because they know the weekend is coming. They’re looking forward to something which makes them happy. Take those same people on Sunday evening -maybe they’re preparing their meals for the week ahead and getting a jump start on a good night's rest...or maybe they’re sitting there dreading the idea of having to go into work the next day and feeling miserable. That was more my attitude. It’s the same idea as when we have a vacation or trip coming up. We’re not thinking about what happened to us when we were 5 years old and how it shaped us into who we are today - we are excited and elated because we know in a couple days or weeks we’ll be on a beach without a care. Everyday on that trip you’re looking forward to the day ahead and the next day - until that last day. How do you guys feel on the last day of your vacation? Probably like me, you feel sad that you’re leaving and have to come back to “reality”. You’re not reliving all the fun you just had the past week, you’re actually already missing it and it’s making you dread the idea of leaving and returning home and sometimes, that feeling can ruin that last day because you’re not living in the present you’re living in the future. This is when the concept of being products of our futures started to resonate with me and I wanted to explore what this meant in my own life...
I relate it best to an experience I had while travelling last summer - I had quit my job, put my things in storage and impulsively bought a ticket to California with very little money in my pocket. Sure I had some family there but really, I needed some time alone in a new place to clear my head and gain some perspective. My life before I left was in complete disarray and I was reliving my past all the time. Everyday I would wallow in my losses, truly unable to conceive or picture any kind of future for myself that didn’t involve giving up. I had no hope and I was the lowest I’ve ever been. I had nothing to lose when I went. During my time there I met someone unexpectedly and had some of the best and most beautiful moments of my life in a very short span of time. I had never been happier, spending our days talking about having a life together there. I was finally able to picture a future and I loved the way it looked. Full of love, excitement, adventure, passion, everything that I wanted and didn’t think I would ever find. When it was over and I returned home, I began to miss that person terribly. I kept thinking about our time together and still do in quiet moments, believing that I missed them and making myself sad over it. As I think back on it now, with this new idea of being a product of my future I realized...I didn’t necessarily miss him - I missed that feeling of being completely elated and happy because I saw a hopeful and bright future for myself and THAT was what was missing. Not a person. It was that feeling. It was such an unfamiliar feeling to me after years of not being able to see anything worth having in my future - in those moments I realized how much I wanted for my life and for myself - and it had nothing to do with him.
So it stands to reason that perhaps we are really products of our futures. When we can see possibilities we’re hopeful and in hope we can find happiness. But when there is nothing to look forward to - it makes sense that our minds would revert back to our pasts. This is a concept I think I’m going to continue to explore in my everyday life and I encourage you to as well. Let’s start building brighter futures for ourselves by letting go of yesterday.