I avoid looking into the past. When I do, I tend to focus on my mistakes and regrets. As a recovering perfectionist, I turned a blind eye when it came to my former errors. I pushed ahead, kept looking forward — towards my future and my goals. I am happy with where I am going, so why ruin the mood?
However, I recently finished reading my story for the audiobook version of When to Jump. The book, by Mike Lewis, was the result of a mutual connection putting us in touch. Mike was looking for unique stories of those who made a transition from one career to another, seemingly, tangent one. He wanted to know the mindset and thought process and hardships associated with a drastic change. After many phone conversations, revisions, and emails, the book was ready to launch, and my story had made it into the final edits.
And there it was, a cliff notes version of my past — the good and the bad. A few pages revealed the transcript to my faulty thinking and naive decision-making: how I squandered a chunk of my 20s with indecision; falling out with my parents over my choice not to go to medical school; the fear of failing in my current role as Executive Director of Everybody Dance Now.
It wasn’t enough that I had to see my story; I had to read it aloud so I could share it with the world. There is some additional weight of reality that sets in when you hear your own words read back to you. There was no detaching the echo of each syllable with the mental picture of my former self. It hurt — 15 years older and wiser, but it still hurt. I wanted to reach back to my previous self and impart some wisdom: don’t care so much; be your own person; life is short. I can’t. It’s done, and I feel myself regretting that I didn’t have the knowledge I currently possess — that I wasn’t a better version of myself.
I took a break from recording to have some water and step away from the story of my 20-year-old self. Why was I so critical? As an adult, maybe there was an unspoken notion that my life should have been together already. I should have known the blueprint, my future career, and my ambitions. And since I was in a top school, I was supposed to have myself together and not still searching for who I was. Being lost was not a natural part of the road, but an indication that I would never find my way.
As I continued to read, some of my faulty thinking began to give way. Yes, I had some growing up to do, but I couldn't speed up the process. As my narrative went on, I saw each piece of the puzzle come together at the time when I was ready to see how it fit. Yeah, there were errors in judgment and timing, but no of them were able to throw me completely off course. I adjusted when needed, gained some wisdom, and showed up the next year a better version of myself.
Though I don't think the past is ever a great place to live from, I do think it's a great place to revisit on occasion. I spend a majority of my time looking ahead; I can’t help it. However, too much of that keeps me from appreciating where I’ve come from and how much I've accomplished. And the joy is felt from that process. Through proper reflection, I can be thankful for the journey.
Being grateful lies in seeing what you have received or currently possess — tangible or intangible. And I plan on spending each morning, breaking away from the future and stepping into that place of thankfulness. As hard as it is to look in the rearview mirror for fear of the wreckage I might see, I'm surprised when I capture a glimpse of my former self. He is not the person I hoped to become, but he was the person that allowed me to get to where I am. He helped me develop a belief in what I can accomplish. And I'm sure I'll say the same thing when I look back on myself years from now.