Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meeting the Past (for the future)

“You have to know the past to understand the present.”
Carl Sagan

Every single person comes from somewhere. There is some story, some tapestry of intricate details that makes up who you see- whether or not those details are apparent, they are there. As time moves, events occur, some within our control, and some outside of it. You may know this novel concept as something called "the past." 

I can think of many romantic ballads in which the singer expresses a lack of concern about a persons past. The Backstreet Boys made a lot money with the simple chorus of "I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did, as long as you love me." The idea that love nullifies the past is appealing to many, as most people's pasts are a mix of good and bad, incredible and humiliating. And let's be honest- we are much more concerned with the negatives than the positives. 

Sometimes I think about the future, and who I will choose to spend my life with. I wonder about the guy that will become my husband, and what he is doing even now. While I'm in no rush to meet him, no rush to be married, I still wonder. Because I know that he too will have a past, and that he will have things that he will want to hide. Once upon a time, I fancied myself the kind of person who could ignore a persons past, live in the moment, and base all my opinions, and love, on that. 

But time has made me a little wiser, and I've come to a conclusion- I don't want to meet someone whose past I ignore. Our pasts meet us in the present- they help to shape us into who we become. Our reactions to things that have happened to us form who we become. The events that we choose, and the ones that just happen to us- they all have an impact on us. We may not see it at the moment, but these things are shaping who we will one day be. Which means that whoever he is, his past is shaping him even as I write this. 

And it's not just the romantic aspect. I want my friends to be able to have pasts too. I never want someone to feel like they have to hide what's made them who they are from me. Instead, I want to be the kind of person who hears someone's past, and understands how it has, and is, affecting them. I want to get to know people moving towards a future, but to understand why they have the certain quirks and qualities that make them unique. Because when we know one another based on who we've been, we know one another. 

By the way, the inverse is true too. I want people to know who I am based on what I've done and been through. Just now, I am learning how to open up to people about things that I have been through. It's a scary process, but it's kind of wonderful. Suddenly I feel secure in knowing that I can share who I am through what I've been through. And I'm learning that when I share my secrets, they become less scary, and I have less of a need to hide them.

Don't think that this means that I'll share everything from now on. I still think a little discernment is a good thing. But I want to be able to get close to people, and the only way it's going to happen is when there is mutual sharing going on. 

So I have a new kind of idea, at least one that is new to me; let's all get to know each other, let's stop ignoring the past, and let's get to know each other through understanding what shapes us. I am committed to learning it about others. And I hope there will be some that want to know it about me. 

One day I'll re-write the love song: "I want to know who you are, where you're from, what you've done, and that's why I love you." 


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