It seems to me that life is a struggle between One’s Past and Irrelevance.
Note – the struggle is not between One’s Self and Irrelevance. I am not irrelevant. I will never be irrelevant. You are not irrelevant, nor will you ever be either. Unfortunately we live in a Pessimist’s World – we know that individually impacting the global course of events is slim, and one day, we will probably be forgotten, so it’s tempting to resign to an outlook that proclaims meaninglessness. One day, you might become Employee #182 – a mere automated transaction in the world of Direct Deposit, and you’ll realize that the reports you spend 30 minutes each day typing up don’t actually matter. If the reports don’t matter, then do you matter?
Don’t be fooled; of course you matter. You are the single most important person in your universe. Your world revolves around you. People will come into your life, and people will leave your life. Jobs will hire you and jobs will let you go. But you will be with you forever. It might be difficult, but try and divorce your sense of self worth from the painfully indifferent universe around you, because ultimately, you are the one thing that matters most in your world. As long as you live, you will be relevant.
But your past might not be, and that’s the challenge – the great Battle of Life between One’s Past and Irrelevance. It’s easy to argue that our pasts will never be irrelevant because we are the sum of our experiences. But I’d venture to say it’s not that easy. Our pasts don’t merely gain relevance by virtue of having happened. We have to help them in their battles, or else they’re destined to be stale and hazy memories.
Our generation of 1980-1990 born, the Boomerang Generation, is notorious for losing the battle for our pasts. Our parents toss us out into the world, we get our college degrees, and then we come right back and land on our child doorsteps. We might be four years older. We might have a college degree, a little experience, and some wisdom, but is anything really different?
I’ve been to Europe six times. I have some great memories and some great lessons learned. But, right now, I’m sitting at a Starbucks in Austin, TX. Would I still be sitting in this Starbucks had I not gone to Europe six times? If only people would ask, I would describe to them the monolithic Soviet-Era apartment complexes in suburban Poland. I would recommend to them places to see in Lviv and advise them on accommodations in Kaunas (just kidding, there aren’t any). But until then, it’s just an expensive memory.
Non-applied lessons are meaningless, even if they’re well-learned. Memories do not create relevance. Memories are the museum exhibits of your past. You look at them from behind the glass of your consciousness. Otherwise they sit there and look pretty. The only way to make your past count is if you, as a self-important individual, actively make them count. Everything you’ve ever done, everything you’ve learned – you need to apply them to your present. Spread the knowledge. Write. Share. When you’re hanging out in the museum of your memory, looking at the exhibits on mistakes, learn from them, and have them guide your future decisions. Recreate the positive memories. Connect with old friends, and if not connect with them, then reflect on the broken connection and use it to connect with future friends, or stay connected with current friends. Every year you’re alive, your life gains a little more worth of experience.
Don’t let your past decay behind dusty glass in an exhibit somewhere deep within you. If you let your past wither into the archives of your memory, then what was the point? Was it all for naught? You’re more important than to let that happen.