The end of the year and beginning of a new one are conventions. Collectively, we could have divided time and established special moments any other way. For some reason, it was a moment in the middle of winter that most of the world now celebrates as the start of something new. And, despite its arbitrariness, I’ve always felt and lived it as if it were special.
Looking back at my posts, it’s easy to see that many of them were an attempt to make peace with the past. This, of course, is something we all do in different forms. “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”, said Faulkner. The past lives on in our habits, compulsiveness, dysfunctional coping, and hurt. So it would make sense, it seems, to reflect on it, reassess it, and hopefully get some closure. How else would we be able to truly be in the present?
However, there’s a thin line between purposeful self-reflection and endless rehashing of past deeds and misdeeds. No matter how good the intentions were initially, it’s easy to get caught in one’s own reflection of how things were, how things should have been, and why that wasn’t the case.
In that case, dealing with the past is no longer a passage towards a more serene placement in the present. It becomes a continuous return to what is no longer there, what was possibly never there, as a source of meaning. This works both with our happy and unhappy pasts.
Our happy past becomes a blueprint of what should be, it shapes our expectations of ourselves and the others. It’s easy to see how this can turn into an endless source of misery, as it cannot possibly make sense of a changing self and a changing world.
Our unhappy past becomes an ever-present ghost, a threatening shadow over all the good and the bad that happens now. It freezes us in self-sabotaging behaviors that are no longer responding to any real danger. It confronts us with the hurt without revealing a way out of it, a possible closure. It leads us to surrender to, avoid, or overcompensate for what we cannot come to terms with.
I’ve been battling my shadow for so long and I’ve surrendered to it and denied it and pushed it down so many times. But I’ve also tried to make friends with it and try to see what hurts and why. I made peace with it or at least we established some common ground for confrontation. A gentlemen’s agreement for the duel.
Most of this process was gray and unspectacular. Most of the time, it was hard to even say if there was any progress after all. Along the way, there were also little breakthroughs and miraculous moments when the confrontation turned into a something else. For a moment, the struggle becomes an embrace. Sudden sunshine through a break in the clouds after a storm.
Somehow, I feel that I’ve walked along this past-facing road long enough. It was useful. It was probably life-saving. And there are still many broken things along that way. There will always be.
But it’s time to turn towards how things are and how they can be. Towards life, world and the others.
That’s why I will turn the title of this post into a series in which I plan to discuss how the present takes us into the future and what we can reasonably expect and hope. Culture, communication, social life, technology, education, health – anything that shapes the way things will be.
This will still sound very personal (because I make it so). It will still feature my own photography. It will still focus on the stories we tell ourselves and one another.
But it won’t be primarily about myself. There are so many stories out there, so many of them untold and invisible. There is so much to know. So much to do out there, outside of my head.
And hopefully my own living experience, with everything that is still broken, will make more sense when seen against this broader horizon.