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we are every age we have ever been
the art of looking back and searching inwards
forrest gump (1994) dir. robert zemeckis
i saw forrest gump (1994) for the first time at 15 and i remember disliking the movie so much i’d have been willing to sell my soul to the devil to get that two and a half hours of my life back. the next time i decided to watch it again was because it was playing on cable and i had nothing better to do, only this time my parents made me go for a quick grocery run because i spent the last of their tissue sobbing in front of the TV. i was barely 19.
it frustrates me that some changes are only meant to be seen after they have occurred. granted, there are many caveats to identifying changes in ourselves, but i want to specifically highlight the amusement in finding out that we’re seeing the world differently than we used to and it completely rearranges the way we perceive stories and ideas. i never thought that 3 years was a long enough time for anyone to undergo such a drastic change, but look at me: i went from dozing off in front of my laptop to developing high sensory perception to moving pictures and emotional range the size of texas. i could pinpoint the exact tom hanks line in which i realized i wasn’t that 15 years old girl anymore, but i could never tell why it had to be that one. it’s like crossing a road you don’t remember crossing and nobody told you how. like getting a receipt that just says “you’ve grown” but it won’t tell you what counts towards it. you just know.
as far as wondering “where did that 15 years old girl go?” goes, i also couldn’t help but ask which part of me now is still the same as that 15 years old girl. to put it differently: recognizing what’s changed is one thing, but figuring out what stays is another thing. it’s easier to identify the former because the human brain interprets change as a threat, so we are most likely going to notice it for better or worse. the latter, on the other hand, is more uninteresting and seemingly pointless in hindsight. it’s like finding a needle in the haystack and then not knowing what to do with it once you have it in hand. like playing where’s waldo? against yourself, only harder.
i really love this saying and graph that i found on tumblr:
the past isn’t behind you, it coils inside your body. i especially love the notion that we are always going to have some sense of connection with our past selves because the spiral construct makes it almost impossible not to. even disconnection, in my opinion, is its own form of connection—it’s finding out you’re no longer fascinated by a thing that you used to at a certain age. it’s reading a book for the second time and then coming out with a completely different takeaway than when you first read it. it’s not getting what a movie is about on the first watch, and then completely blown away when you see it again after some time.
this brings me to the possibility that the things we’re creating and the ideas we’re sharing today have been inside us all along. it makes sense that we set plans aside and leave ideas behind because it seemed like it wasn’t going anywhere else, but what if the reason we felt that way is because we were seeing it from the wrong, half-baked side of the road? what if we just need to allow for some time to pass and let it help us find the best side of the road to see the complete picture?
a lot of writers have pointed this out to me. my favorite is from:
When I look back in my notes I realize so much of what I write about today I was ruminating about 2-3 years ago. I always knew what I was going to say. I just didn’t have the tools, I didn’t have the maturity, I didn’t have the language or sensitivity to beauty to recognize what that was. So much of what I learned was latent, unexpressed because I wasn’t ready. I had to stick with it. I had to wring it out with time, effort, intention. ( — things that take time)
i’ve seen people burn money, go on a pilgrimage, and basically jump out of their comfort zone trying to find their “next big thing”. what they won’t believe is that when the time aligns, their “next big thing” could be something that’s been inside them all along. it might not be in the same form it originally was in, but one with a strong sense of connection with their past selves will realize that it’s still the same part of ourselves, in essence.
that’s why revisiting helps: it allows us to see what’s been overlooked. i believe we do ourselves a great disservice by not keeping a practice of looking back and reaching out to what our past selves were reading, thinking, or feeling at that time of our lives. a peer of mine pointed out that writing is the best way that we do this, and as much as i love writing as a medium of reflection, i feel like we’re gonna miss out on so many revelations by limiting ourselves to only one medium of reflection. to me, re-reading is a time machine as powerful as writing when we really tune in to that sense of connection with our past selves. if re-watching forrest gump (1994) at 18 is what led me to giving birth to this essay, i’d like to find out what else i’m able to achieve when i re-watch more movies. it’s not the medium. it’s in our intention.:
Looking back can be a reminder of what is constant and actually meaningful. A realization that sometimes you don’t need to “come back” or find yourself because you’re right there, and have been all along. ( — new prompts for looking back)
only this time, in addition to looking back: also search inwards.
for the past isn’t behind you—it coils inside your body.
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