“We may be through with the past, but the past is never through with us.”
-Narrator (Magnolia, Screenwriter: Paul Thomas Anderson)
“Another year you made a promise
Another chance to turn it all around
And do not save this for tomorrow
Embrace the past and you can live for now”
-Great Big World (Songwriters: Ian Axel / Chad Vaccarino)
I’m a big proponent of setting goals and living deliberately to achieve the life you want. I’ve been devoted to that (sometimes faithfully, sometimes half-assed) ever since high school. That being said, when I look back on my life thus far, I’m so grateful things didn’t work out exactly how I envisioned.
The detours, the asides, the meanderings, the deviations, and the circuitous routes have made me who I am.
I love the line “embrace the past and you can live for now” in the song I quoted above. In our rush to start anew, many of us want to forget about the previous year(s) and just charge forward. That might work for some, but I think it’s a bad practice. Certainly don’t dwell on the past (whether it was good or bad) so you’re living in blind nostalgia, but I highly recommend shaking its hand, honoring it, and remembering its joys and lessons.
Once you embrace the past, go ahead and make those New Year’s Resolutions, set those intentions and goals, and bust your ass to make them a reality. I wish everyone the success they search. But please keep a big picture view on your life as you embark on this journey. Enjoy all the steps along the way and pay attention to every second of it. Fall in love with the moment and the process.
I present to you my life as a public service announcement.
I’ve been trying to be a professional, full-time writer for more than 20 years. I’ve had some successes, lots of disappointments, and on January 9, 2019 I’ve yet to achieve this huge life goal. However, when I look in the mirror, I see someone with a big smile on his face.
Many years ago I lucked into a wonderful full-time job that I continue to enjoy. If I could get into a DeLorean with a flux capacitor and go back to 1998 when I moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter, I truly wouldn’t want to change anything. Because if I found the success I desperately sought back then, I would have missed out on getting to know the hundreds (maybe thousands) of amazing people I’ve been lucky to meet in the last two decades.
In a sense, I feel like Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams.
In 2002 one of my scripts almost got me to my ultimate goal … “it was like coming this close to your dreams, and then watching them brush by you like a stranger in a crowd”, as Burt Lancaster said in the film. When it didn’t happen I was devastated. It took a long time and many dark, gloomy days to get over the disappointment. But I eventually made peace with it, moved on, and let my life take a divergence.
I’m glad that happened. I’m also proud of myself for not giving up on my dream, for continuing to write scripts, short stories, plays, articles, blog posts, and novels. I love the process, and I’ll never stop writing and submitting my work.
I’m hoping my new novel Lost in the Fog will be my big break. But if not, I’ll keep trying.
On that I’ll share with you a picture of my journal from December 31, 1998 written from 1200 North June Street in Los Angeles. 1999 didn’t bring the success I sought, but it sure was a hellva lot of fun. Let’s all party like it’s 1999 2019.
“The detours, the asides, the meanderings, the deviations, and the circuitous routes have made me who I am.”
That’s how I have felt. One door has led to another and another. I started off my adult life as a teacher. While I liked the kids and faculty, I was miserable in the job. Then a chance to go to school in an accelerated Master’s program at SF State had me taking a leave of absence from my school…but that was a disaster. I crashed and burned and, too embarrassed to return, I quit and got a job teaching elsewhere.
Eventually I went back home again, tail between my legs. I started substitute teaching, hoping to get hired somewhere—and almost WAS hired the day I had an interview at the Fresno Bee, a newspaper in the McClatchy chain. Amazingly, I was hired.
That job at the newspaper was the job I enjoyed the most–although it paid the least. It was (mostly) creative and provided me with lots of experiences, I met people and I had a great time.
When the economic downturn came and newspapers started failing (My own newspaper laid off hundreds of employees–many people that I knew!), instead of waiting for my turn to have my head on the chopping block, I went back to school and became a nurse.
I was hired after my very first interview. I was really green and it took a while for me to get with the program, but the department I was on really liked me and kept me…and eventually succeeded. I became a part of the “family” there. i loved my co-workers, so much so, that when my own family all moved to Washington, I stayed behind with my work “family” and job.
Now my medical issues have forced me from work and I am in the process of moving to Washington to be near my mom, brother, and nephew on an island.
All of the varied experiences, all of the people, and all of the re-inventions of myself have been fascinating. It would be nice to have been one of those people who retire after 30 years on a job someplace–but I can’t imagine that. Even though some of my choices may have been seemingly awful (that big disastrous trip back to school for my Master’s–which didn’t happen, for example), have actually been pretty awesome experience-wise in hind sight.
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Sounds like you’ve had some amazing experiences and a great meandering life journey so far! I guess almost nobody gets exactly what they want, and if we did, it might be a bit boring.
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