Which is more powerful: the desire for something you want but haven’t yet obtained, or the desire for something you once had but lost?
This question was posed to me by none other than Alex Bumpers on August 16, 2016. I remember the exact date because it was a question I spent hours agonizing over, wondering what could possibly be the answer. This question scrambled my brains so much that I had to write down my thoughts on it multiple times. This is attempt number three, and I anticipate the third time to be exponentially more in-depth than my two prior attempts.
Recently I have struggled with accepting the past. Mainly accepting that what happened can’t be changed and what was never will be again. It’s always been difficult for me to accept; there’s always been this trepidation looming over me when confronted with change or the thought of the future. Even though I know change is inevitable, that doesn’t make accepting and adjusting to it any easier.
There are friendships and romantic relationships I’ve had or had an opportunity to have that I understand will never come close to where they once were. People grow up and grow apart, it’s just part of life, but being aware that it will happen doesn’t prepare us for when it becomes reality. Some people I used to see every day, in more of a capacity than just sight and proximity, are now just ghosts of my past. I was a confidant, housing secrets in my brain with no such thing as a “no vacancy” sign. The only way to check out was through treasonous whispers and once exited there would be no return guests.
I was a rock, a dependable foundation that through years of verbal torrent, busted hopes, and blasted dreams remained solid and steady for others. I was many things, and they were all graciously returned unto me.
Years later I would discover that these relationships were somewhat temporary, somewhat enduring, but no matter what I would look back on them fondly. I didn’t know that in just a matter of one or two years my brain had closed its hotel with its occupants still trapped inside with no way to escape. I wasn’t aware that I was being rapidly eroded by the inundation of passing time.
An intriguing part of the human psychology is that we often look at the past as a happier time. It’s hard to be happy in the present because we are too busy enjoying the moment; happiness is something that can only be recognized when it is absent. So through my own bouts with depression and simply dealing with the everyday ups and downs, looking to the past became an outlet for me to reminisce on more untroubled times, in some cases even euphoric in their simplicity and innocence.
Then we have the future. The world’s greatest unknown. In our youth we are infused with dreams and passions more numerous than possible to achieve, but possess unwavering senses of optimism and determination. We are constantly looking forward to the future, despite our elders always trying to keep our eyes on the present.
Innocently, we began wishing to grow up when we could barely speak, blissfully unaware of the struggles and amount of change that come with getting older. Stress becomes a reality, responsibilities, expectations. We are given a taste, and then become gluttons feasting on what we wished for since birth, unaware that this is what the future held. Our dreams slowly fade along with our passions, and we have to focus on security and realistic expectations.
No matter what getting older entails, it will never kill our dreams. They may fade, but they will never die. The thrill in life is working to obtain things that you have never had. That’s what keeps us moving forward. Looking to the past for comfort holds us back.
Those who fear change long for the past because they’ve already been there and it’s comfortable. The untrodden path that is the future is unsettling and fearful, but it too will one day be the past.
The desire for what we have not yet obtained is more powerful in the sense that that’s what we are always striving for. The desire for what we have lost is more powerful because it is almost a certainty that we will never have it again, so while the desire itself is powerful, it is accompanied by feeling powerless.
Balance is the key to everything. Memories are photos in the scrapbook of our past that we can always revisit, but never relive. The future is the biggest uncertainty in life, and while it’s okay to be eager looking at the future, you cannot live in the future, either. Learn from your past to live in the present to better your future.