Why you should hold on to the past

My small bare feet sank into a muddy puddle.

I closed my eyes and put my nose to the purple-grey sky. As I took in the scent of rain-soaked mud and cement, my dirt-covered hands gripped my bunch of flowers and shoebox of rocks more tightly.

There was nothing better than standing in the stillness after a rainfall.

My grandma’s voice filled the cool air: “Angel, it’s time to go.”

I shook my body out of its trance, dropping one of my flowers into the dirt. I picked it up and examined its petals — they were intact. I headed for the door.  I didn’t bother to wash my hands when I got inside — that’s what my jeans were for.

I was nine: flowers and rocks were my favourite things, messy hair was my forte, dirt was part of my everyday attire, and the way people viewed me was a nonexistent worry.

Fast-forward 12 years. I am 21: three-day weekends and sleep are my favourite things, messy hair is still my forte, coffee stains are a part of my everyday attire, and how people view me is a daily worry.

It’s my last year of undergrad. And I can’t help but feel the advice I was given, to “not hold on to the past,” is lacking.

Because on our journey to adulthood, we lose something along the way.

As young adults, our innocence has unravelled — it cannot be wound up as it once was. A room covered with scattered Legos and splattered watercolors are no longer the biggest messes we pick up.

We now have life-changing decisions to make: the past hurts we need to process, the broken friendships we need to mend, the jobs we need to find, and the school loans we need to pay off.

Despite all that changes, our ability to wonder and try things, regardless of the chance of embarrassment and failure, remains.   

When we were children, we inherently wondered, wildly dreamed, and fearlessly tried. Now we must intentionally make a choice to live these things out. If we don’t, we may end up wasting parts of why we were created. When we choose to see the value in the small things, we can more genuinely appreciate the big things.

So, I think we should hold on to the past, to the part that matters: our childlike sense of wonder and confidence.

Take the time to slow down and look at the autumn leaves with the same amazement you once did as a child. And when those leaves are crisp, don’t be afraid to step on each one, just to hear them crunch.

Go after the thing you love that both excites and terrifies you, or the dream you fear everyone will think is ridiculous. Strive after it, and remember to breathe. 

When I look back 20 years from now, I don’t want to see a life full of hesitation. I want to see dreams strived for and sleeves covered in dirt. Because without the mess, there’s no room for growth, appreciation of successes, or stories to tell.

So hold onto that childlike ability to unashamedly show what you care about and what you long for. And don’t be afraid to try, even if it means getting messy. 

Photo (Flickr CC) by Lulu Loverin.