Photo by Kara Harms
I’m not always as diligent in the spring cleaning department, but I do make it a point every once in a while of cleaning out my closet of stuff that have accumulated over the years. It’s always interesting what I find. I’m always reminded of different points in my life, when I was into this or that fashion. Or household trinkets of one or other design style. It speaks to who I am and where I was. It also reminds me to be grateful for all that I have because I have so much.
So it was quite a surprise when I found myself not rummaging through my vintage fashion but through the vintage stages of my life when my childhood babysitter Mary called me out of the blue to let me know that she was visiting the area. I hadn’t seen her since I was thirteen or fourteen, but little did I know that spending time with her would be equivalent to my rummaging through the hallmarks of my closet. Only instead of pulling out long-forgotten personal treasures, I was nudged into re-evaluating where I was in life and where I wanted to be.
In as little of a few days, sifting through early childhood memories really had me thinking of my present and how I could use my past to empower my present moment.
Even though Mary babysat me throughout my childhood, she was only five years older than me. We caught up on each other’s lives and the lives of those we grew up with. It was interesting to see how so much had never changed. And I wondered why. It can be so easy for us to find ourselves in ruts that we choose to live in. And perhaps those ruts enter and remain because of complacency and the difficulty it can be to deal with change.
Her visit made me realize that I too have areas in my life that I need to improve upon, areas that needed some adjustments, some change. From her visit, I unearthed some pointers when considering the past to improve the present.
1. We’re never too old to live out childhood dreams.
One topic that I hoped to steer clear of was my writing, though I knew the subject would come up. It was and always had been an important part of my life.
“So how many books have you published? Are you still writing?”
“You used to bring me a different story you wrote every time I came to babysit. ‘What do you think of the story? Do you understand the story?’ It was like you were writing since birth.”
“I just knew you would be a journalist or something. Why didn’t you become a journalist?”
“I always knew you would do something important with your life. And you didn’t disappoint. You were always reading and writing.”
I cringed with all of these comments because even though writing has always been my passion, I had let life, career and literary rejection blur what was really important in life. What I learned from Mary’s visit was that it is never too late to live your passion. Passion brings excitement and fulfillment and without it, our lives become humdrum and mediocre.
2. View your past through the telescope of Gratitude.
The message is to live in the present but every once in a while, it’s a good idea to recall past circumstances and appreciate the experience and how you overcame the experience. Some of the stories Mary shared about old childhood friends and some of the hard lives that they lived was heart-breaking. But what was good to look at was that despite some of these tragedies, some of them made it through those times.
One story Mary shared was about one of my childhood friends growing up in a very dysfunctional home. Despite not having the support or resources for creating a functional life, she joined the military and developed her career. While I did not share the same experiences as my childhood friend, I could appreciate that she created a good life for herself and the family that she started. It also made me color my own trying experiences with Gratitude because while I may have gone through something, I lived through it and have learned lessons from those experiences. Realizing that empowers me to preserve through current challenges because if I had the strength to make it through past hurdles, I can do the same for the current ones.
3. Qualities that you may not like in others are a reflection of yourself.
Mary, while young, always had an “old-heart.” We both grew up with rigid upbringings, hers a little more so than mine. Over the years, I grew away from some of those restrictive teachings and tried to live by my own principles. While spending time with my friend, I noticed that she still held on to some of those strict views of life. And it irritated me. I couldn’t imagine going through life with arbitrary rules chaining everything that I did. But could I? When I really began thinking of it, I was being judgmental to my friend and her beliefs. But what was really bothering me was that the very “faults” that I saw as hers, were really my own.
My mom always told me that I could be very judgmental and that I tend to view the world in black and white, with very little room for gray. I never really put much thought into my mother’s observations. But with Mary’s visit and my rummaging through my own vintage closet, I realized that my mom was right. I was seeing in Mary a quality that I disliked in myself. Only I couldn’t see it, not until I observed it in my friend. Now that I’ve come to this rather revealing epiphany about myself, I can now work on changing it. We point out faults in others but we really need to hold up the mirror to see these faults in us. It’s about accepting imperfections and making them personal learning devices for change.
I don’t think Mary really realized what a great enlightening experience her visit was for me. Over the three days that we spent together, we had a lot of fun, but the time we shared together was more than just the face-to-face time. It was also instrumental in helping me reevaluate myself, as I am today.
In what ways can my past help to better shape my present life?
How can I embrace the girl of yester-years and use her to create my passion for today?
How can I use my mirror for self-reflection, to improve myself and my outlook on life and others?
What are some of the life-changing questions that you can answer while rummaging through your vintage closet?