I’ve spent far too much time living in my own past. Granted, it was a time of happiness for me. But if it deters one from moving forward, it’s time to shut the door on its examination and to forge a new path. I know I’m loathe to refer to Jay Gatsby and his experiences too much, but Nick Carraway really grasps the obvious when he states, “He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, ….” My mind frequently revisits my childhood in Vermont. Granted we moved when I was entering the second grade, but those few years in Burlington are forever cemented in me.
However, they’ve become a standard against which I measure myself time and time again only to find I don’t measure up. I have to leave the past in the past now. I’m not who I once was. And I’m learning it’s okay to be a different person. Would I prefer to be the slimmer, more athletic person I was in my youth? Sure, I would. But it’s impossible to ignore the water that’s gone under this bridge in the ensuing years.
The other day I drove past my childhood home in Burlington. I’m always struck by how much smaller the dead-end street appears, how much closer to the street the house is positioned, how “tired” the whole scene appears. Though I wouldn’t want to live there now, I still enjoy what I experienced there when I was young.
I was a happy-go-lucky kid, quick with a goofy smile and equally quick to go running off into the woods to reenact some television show I’d watched. I could swim, skate and ski with ease and had no trouble keeping pace with the boys on the baseball field. Throughout my teenage years when I visited Burlington every summer, I could still swing myself into a saddle with ease though I can see from photographs that the goofy smile had disappeared and was replaced by more of a brooding countenance.
Life can wear us down and suck the joy from any activity. Reality tells me I’m far too overweight to try to swing into a saddle. It would not be fair to the horse, I’m told. Skiing and skating on a permanently damaged ankle, from an icy fall thirty years ago, would now be difficult but not altogether impossible. Burned out from teaching tennis for over thirty years, with practice I could probably still slam a tennis ball fairly well. I’d be slow on the baseball diamond but could still catch, though with bad shoulders I now throw like a girl. Put me in the water and I can still swim like a fish. I’m so thankful for that. And thus, I look to the water for continued healing.
What’s the point? Instead of reliving my past in the comfortable world of a child, I’m able to see a path that leads me to that happy-go-lucky kid…the one who didn’t care if her hair was a mess, the kid who protected other kids who were bullied, the kid who immersed herself in books. Wait a minute, I’m still that kid.