"You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the last one." I saw this message this morning and it hit me hard, because just 20 minutes earlier I had come into contact with part of my past while cleaning out an old carry-on bag in preparation for my upcoming vacation.
As I emptied its contents, my old job came spilling out unexpectedly: CDs, reports, schedules, brightly colored charts and graphs, all almost three years old. They looked so foreign to me that it took a minute to remember the business trip they were from. I looked at the itinerary that had been prepared for me by my previous employer. It looked so impressive and sexy compared to my current 1/2-mile commute to the yoga studio by my house: "Car picks you up at airport," then, "Meeting with Vice President of company at Rockefeller Center," and, "Label showcase at City Winery," followed by, "Car back to airport."
As I sat in my pajamas sipping warm lemon water on a lazy, rainy Tuesday morning, I barely recognized the person in that schedule doing all that important-sounding stuff. All of the stress, travel, and ambition to succeed seemed like the "old" me, and as I threw the whole pile into the trash on top of last night's vegetable peels, it felt like I was doing the right thing. That's what you're supposed to do, right? Get rid of your past so you can move forward?
I was on a new path now, teaching yoga, going to school, and building up my new holistic nutrition business. I didn't need my past reminding me of how stressed OR successful I used to be. I didn't need it tapping me on my shoulder, smirking, and showing me the glamorous life I left behind while I ate my cold oatmeal with my two dogs.
Something made me want to look at it again, so I reached down into the trash and took the schedule back out, smoothing it down to read. I saw myself on that business trip, racing through NYC in the crisp autumn air; meeting new people, creating business contacts, and building relationships with my associates. I saw myself eating in great restaurants alone and loving it. I saw myself finding my way around the city perfectly and making huge progress in what I wanted to accomplish at the time. I remember the feeling of satisfaction after that particular trip. It had shifted me internally to a different place in my confidence level, and it felt really good.
So why not take that energy, that drive, that passion, and put it toward what I'm doing now? Just because there's no car and driver waiting for me, or no expensive wine dinners, I still have the engine that propelled all of that: me!
When we throw out our past, we sometimes throw out a part of ourselves we might have wanted to keep. Every relationship, job, or period of our life we leave behind is a part of who we are now in the present.
So go ahead and sort through the debris and throw out the negativity, the stress, the unhealthy behaviors, the toxic ties — but don't forget about holding onto, and cherishing, the positive aspects of that time. The love, the commitment, the excitement, the joy, and the growth that occurred. Those are ours to keep forever.