Every year at Christmas I migrate back to the East Coast of America to spend time with my family. Every year I find it hard to leave my home and friends in London when the city is so festive but feel equally excited to wrap my arms around my loving parents. While the house I return to is not my childhood home, it still holds many relics from my adolescent and teenage years, tangible reminders that who I am is no longer who I used to be.
Sometimes these reminders trigger humorous embarrassment or regret. Oh man – was I really that obsessed with dolphins and dinosaurs? What on earth convinced me Joey from New Kids on the Block was special enough to merit a mention in my diary (and once a place on my wall)? Sometimes they are painfully embarrassing – photographs of a less vibrant version of myself (recalling those awkward years when I lacked self-esteem) or disappointing test scores and rejection letters from universities that once made me feel inadequate.
But they are also reminders that things change. And that is hugely powerful and comforting knowledge. Accepting that nothing is permanent can make us feel vulnerable, but if you look at it on the flip-side it’s hallelujah refreshing. Why? Because it means we’re never stuck. There is always an opportunity for a new beginning on the horizon. There is always time for growth and cultivating a sense of ourselves and the roles we’re meant to fulfill in life.
The past was merely a dress rehearsal for the future, which is the present (the pre-sent), which tomorrow will be the past and so on and so forth.
Along with that is the understanding that life is a journey of learning and sometimes we take wrong turns or have to test the waters in one pond before we realize we’re more suited to the ocean. I have to laugh when I look at a collection of softball trophies (the kind you get just for participating), my old neglected and dented saxophone, and horse-back riding gear I used less than ten times. To the person I am now, it’s no wonder these hobbies were short-lived or abandoned as soon as I became an adult. And while I could regret the time ‘wasted’ pursuing avenues not suited to my personality, strengths or more importantly my true passions, I know this foggy, confused time existed for a reason.
You wouldn’t start a trek at the top of a mountain, would you? I suppose you could parachute from a helicopter to catch the view and start your descent, but what would happen to the adventure of getting there? What of the bumps and bruises, the callused feet, the pitfalls that nearly made you quit but that you overcame with persistence? While we can admire the view of what we see from the top, it hardly has any meaning if we don’t look behind us and acknowledge where we came from.
So as much as I cringe at the sight of those old photos, embarrassing diary entries, things I wish I never said or did, it’s important that I acknowledge them, forgive myself for not knowing better and feel blessed for what life has taught me along the way to bring me to where I am now.
To pass on just a fraction of these valuable learnings:
- Do what you love and not what you feel you should do or everyone else is doing
- Get out and see the world – you will find yourself in the most strange places
- Move your body – it’s the best way to get unstuck and fit!
- Don’t buy so many souvenirs – you don’t always need physical reminders from every experience you’ve had (and you’ll save money)!
Which brings me back to the theme of ‘de-cluttering.’ Just like personal growth (there’s never really a summit to that mountain), it seems my mission to de-clutter is also never ending. I am, however, a great deal closer to that ending than I was at the beginning of the year! And now I am ready to shred those old test scores, give away the riding helmet and boots to my nieces, perhaps save one softball trophy for my mother’s sake.
The more technology advances, the easier it is to deem things redundant. I’ve held on to a collection of CDs thinking I might want save them to show my grandchildren one day, but I haven’t played them for years and doubt I will in the next ten, so they go in the charity box. Music fulfills a different purpose for me and now I am mostly interested in finding transportable tracks I can play in my yoga classes. The classical music CDs? Those stay. New Year’s resolution? More live music, more creating music, less plastic cases.
So on this occasion of the New Year (or whenever you might read this), I invite you to embrace even just the concept of the possibility for renewal and change and give thanks to 2013 (or the past 12 months) for what it taught you. I’m sure you can already think of a few positive changes you made this year that have left you somewhere different than you began.