It’s a phrase with which we have all become familiar. Whether it is others or ourselves being told to do so, we have heard it before.
Believing that acknowledging the past is a sign of weakness, fear, and the inability to adjust to a changing world, people adopt a fast-paced, live-for-the-present lifestyle, where one thing blends into another and past history is forgotten. People think that by moving on, by brushing bad experiences out of their minds, they are overcoming those difficulties, and are proving to themselves and the world that they have accepted the past and where it has led them. But is recognizing the past really as damaging as many people seem to believe? Is holding on to memories that strongly affect us tragic?
I believe that reflection is a sign of humanity. A person who accepts the past, and reflects on how it affected and continues to affect him, is able to understand his current state. Looking back on the past can help one reconcile and learn.
I have been accused of dwelling in the past, of holding on to even the most insignificant incidents. From witty comments to old pictures still hanging in my room, I just can’t let go. I even had trouble watching my family give away our old station wagon without keeping something to remember it by. But is this bad? I believe we are meant to hold onto our past. Why else would we have the capacity to remember innumerable things, and why would our minds unconsciously recycle past events in our dreams?
Although I have sometimes wished I could forget and release myself from my memories, I have come to the realization that by not doing so I have been better able to learn and accept who I am. By reminding myself of past mistakes, I have steered away from repeating actions I would soon have regretted. For example, I have learned to never again wear a bright purple sweatshirt and an itchy hand-knitted scarf to school. However, my memories have also helped guide me through more serious situations. Whenever I find myself in dire circumstances and the future does not look promising, my memories remind me of recovery. I know have pulled through before and can get back on my own two feet.
Move on. It’s the phrase I hear when those around me are tired of listening to my complaints, or seeing me relive a moment from the past. Although when it is said I often take the comment grudgingly, frustrated that the speaker does not understand, I also take it with pride. I am not holding onto the past for its own sake; I am holding on so I can better function in the present and prepare for the future. I am in a process: a process that leads to development, a process that brings about self-acceptance.
I believe that those who brush aside the past are missing a valuable opportunity to learn and grow.
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