Last week, during winter break for my children, our family drove into New York City, for no other reason than to take our dog for a walk. While it was his inaugural stroll through the city streets, it was an opportunity for me to revisit old haunts and places that I called home for fifteen years.
My memory is not what it used to be. Presumably it’s preoccupied by short term demands for my attention that usually arrive these days via email, zoom calls and, more importantly from my children and family. Yet as I strolled down amnesia lane in Lower Manhattan, people and places that I had not considered in some time came back one by one once more. Kindly calling me forth to revisit parts of my past that almost universally brought a smile to my face.
It’s important to distinguish this act of revisiting from the idea of a memory. The latter is passive and nostalgic. The former is active and current. I was present with my past not absently looking back at it. It is reliving, not remembering. While fleeting, the act of revisiting our former selves and the context of our lives, is no trivial act.
It may be a look in the rear view mirror, but it is a mirror none-the-less.
Only by traveling back from whence we came, can we assess how true and authentic our present path forward really is. Did we betray our former selves? Compromise our values? Did our lives grow or shrink? Did we become who we hoped to be?
As our lives grow more complex, with more people needing or demanding our time and attention, It is easy to lose sight of who we were and still are as individuals.
Revisiting a time in my life which was more free and unencumbered by responsibility, more able to take risks, reminded me of parts of myself that have recently gone neglected. Parts of me that were critical in helping me get to where I am now.
I love my life today and would not trade it for all the world. But I also loved my life experiences from years ago and to revisit them is to remind me of why I love anything at all.
Ironically, I live just seventeen miles away from this part of New York City that was so formative for me. Although I have been back to the city so many times before, it’s been seventeen years since I truly felt connected to it as I did back then when I called it my home.
I’m not sure whether it was the presence of my children that allowed me to open up and share these experiences with them and with myself. Or the fact that the pandemic has limited my trips to the city only for medical treatment. Regardless, it was a welcome trip back home, one I hope to revisit more intentionally in the future.
Doing so not to dwell on the past, but to better ground myself in the present and prepare me for the future.