Why I Always Look Back At The Past, Even When I'm Told Not To

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woman looking out window

By Candice Zhang

I’m on the subway after a long day of work, rushing to get home and sleep. Thoughts fill my head, whether they were thoughts from my previous work shifts or from the last time I took a nap. I think of my childhood, and how it affected my adulthood.

I remember the dance and gymnastics lessons. I remember my parents’ emphasis on getting good marks to go to a good university. I remember telling my parents about the first time my classmates bullied me.

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When I arrive home, I sit on my phone and vent about what has happened to my friends.

They all tell me “What is in the past is in the past. You have to forget it.” But the reality is: It’s easier said than done.

If you continue to look at the past, realize that what you’re doing isn’t wrong at all.

There’s a reason why past events have affected your emotions. Some of these events may have been very traumatic, and have altered your perspective on life. Because of these events, you may be on alert mode whenever you meet a new person. And whenever you find yourself in a similar situation, you can’t help but reflect on another similar situation from the past.

It’s like how history unfolds itself in front of our eyes. Whenever current events happen, we always look at the past and see how we have tackled the situation before. Then we apply the solution to our current situation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

So, whenever you find yourself looking at the past, you may have realized a similar event occurred. After all, the past has affected your character, and your way of looking at things.

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And whenever someone tells you to forget about what happened, you realize it’s almost impossible to forget. How can you forget about something that has altered the course of your life? And how can you forget about something that has impacted you drastically?

If these memories have impacted your identity, it’s difficult to let them go. They become part of who you are. And they become part of your history.

No matter how much you try to cover them, these memories will appear right in front of your head whenever something triggers them.

If you were bullied badly in elementary school, you may have noticed how these memories get triggered whenever you find yourself in a toxic friendship, or whenever you’re in the center of workplace or school gossip.

When similar events happen and they replicate the past, we can’t help but look back. Whenever we look at the past, we may find solace and strength because we knew we got through a similar situation. It reminds us we can tackle whatever life throws at us, and rise up again.

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If we could do it before, we could definitely do it now, we think to ourselves. And sometimes when reflecting on the past, we realize how much we have grown.

Sure, we may not be satisfied with life currently, but whatever has happened in the past has made us the strong person we are nowadays. So when you think of those people who neglected you, you may have a better sense of personality and have learned how to navigate different environments with different people.

So, even if you’re telling someone to forget about the past to move on, sometimes, remembering the past will help someone move on.

Without the past, there will be no lessons for someone to learn. And without the past, no one can reflect on their mistakes.

By looking at the past, we learn to look toward the future while traveling our current journey. We can learn how to prevent and solve similar problems. We will know how to move on easier than before.

Furthermore, by knowing the past, we have a better understanding of ourselves currently, which will prepare us for the future. So when issues do happen, we’re ready to tackle them as they go.

By knowing the past, we learn to appreciate what we have in the moment. We appreciate the great friends we have, and the gifts life has offered thus far. Because without the past, there will be no such thing as the present.

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Candice Zhang is a writer and frequent contributor to Unwritten whose bylines have been featured on Her Campus, The Strand, and others. She writes primarily about health and wellness, relationships, and current events.

This article was originally published at Uwritten. Reprinted with permission from the author.