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3 Lessons I Learned From My Past

When looking back is a good thing.

Last year was iconic. For so many reasons. For many, it was a year where we saw grief, sorrow, and despair up, close and personal. And yet if you let it, 2020 also showed us resilience, patience, and hope. We learned lessons that we had been avoiding and extended support to one another in ways that we never had time for before. Along the way, life taught us to minimize and value that which we often took for granted. Less became the new more and simplicity took center stage once again. We learned acceptance, tolerance, survival and above all else, God’s will.

Last week, had me caught up in a nostalgic knot thinking about these very same life lessons of recent times. I rummaged my melancholy whilst clearing out a brown stained box of old photographs. Flashbacks of years gone by, people and places left behind in the race of life and living. I walked through some corners of my heart that I had squared off and some footsteps which when retraced unleashed more longing. Though I practice and preach ‘looking forward’ — just for these few snatched moments succumbed to looking back, lying vulnerable in a labyrinth of memories.

What it did was it left me feeling rather exposed and reflective. Yet what came forth, as a result, was enriching and enlightening.

3 lessons I learned from my past

Don’t shut out your past. If it has resurfaced; understand why.

Aren’t you curious about those moments when something from your past reappears in your present as if you have stepped into a time machine? Like an instant portal into that era, there you are swirling in memories of that group of colleagues that you shared every bit of your life with back then, or that old romance, that bestie that you bared your soul with — images and thoughts, opening floodgates of those remembrances.

Now I believe that everything happens for a reason. There are no coincidences in life. If something has reappeared into your present, then that something is here for a reason. Is it here to teach you, remind you or bring to your awareness something you’ve left behind in your journey of life? So, you might wonder, is it the right time for me to resolve something, think differently, change some belief or offer a helping hand? Why not treat these windows into your past as an opportunity to remember who you were and appreciate where you are now?

Then step one layer down to ask, “Is there something from this period of my life that I need to let go of? Or — Is there something from this period of my life that I need to hold on to?” If the answer is maybe or yes, then write a word that represents that thought. Is it about who you were then, what you learned, is it a characteristic you need to lose or an abandoned self-belief that you need to find again and carry into the present? Treat the past as a teacher. Simply ask those thoughts or memories that sift up from your past, “Why are you here now?” and then keenly listen.

You are the ultimate artist of your bigger picture. Design your life by using these precious stones of the past to springboard you into the future you desire.

You don’t need to fix the past every time in order to have a future.

During this process, you may come across a quality, a certain mind set or a habit which you’re still struggling to imbibe or abstain from. Unresolved, it (re)appears posing as ‘problems’ in your personality.

At such times, we tend to believe that the responsible, necessary, or adult-like thing to do would be to hold the problem tightly until we fix it. Professionally I must admit, I often recommend examining it, analyzing it, talking about it, and focusing on it with a whole lot of emotion and energy until you’ve dealt with it.

However, in hindsight, sometimes that creates more suffering. Of course, there is a lot to be said for understanding ourselves and our experiences in a new way and taking action where action is needed. Those are absolutely necessary. But keeping our ‘problem’ under a constant microscope, trying to use our intellect to solve it as if it’s a crossword puzzle, is not the only way to freedom.

Sometimes the best chance for change comes from letting go of everything you thought you knew, letting those loose ends remain just that; loose and undone. Instead focus on the present. Be open to fresh, new insights and ideas. Don’t carry around the box of your past; leave it there. As an alternative, address your issue in the now. Start thinking anew.

Don’t think inside the box. Think outside. Let go of the box.

Remember; you can’t make old friends; you either have them or you don’t.

Most importantly along your journey, there would be some people who watched you rise and shine out into your own. Some of these celebrated your victories with you and a few other quiet ones silently rejoiced from the shadows. Oblivious, you lived your life up until you met them again. After decades. Maybe more. And it didn’t matter. It was just like old times. No questions asked, no judgments passed. These hearts still carry a torch for you. Cherish those souls. The ones which have stood the test of time and distance. Give them a permanent spot in your life. Keep them close. These special ones are for keeps.

Tightly, I held on to an old photograph. A lost friendship. Lost at the hands of life as we knew it. Too busy to stop. Well, guess what? Life as we knew it, does not exist anymore. This new normal, despite its inconveniences, allows you better sense.

I picked up my phone and dialed a number I still knew by heart. It was answered instantaneously.

Indeed, sometimes looking back is a good thing. Gosh! It’s the best thing I ever did in a while.

Tasneem Kagalwalla @tasneemkagalwalla

Life Coach & Lifestyle Blogger

SHE Magazine USA

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