Essays · Life & Stuff

Identity: Past, Present and Future

*Part of the Identity Series*

For a long time, and sometimes even now, I wanted to be a teacher. I now realise the reason for this was because I wanted to hold on to the school setting forever. For some reason, school has always seemed like a place of comfort to me.

Don’t get me wrong, school wasn’t easy. Having Social Anxiety made it very difficult, so did the depression, and so did being an introvert with extroverted friends. I was also the token Ugly friend alongside being the token Black friend – as a Mixed Race girl.

But alas, I enjoyed school as a whole. And I still admire that setting and yearn for it.

I decided to ask myself why that is, and here’s what I came up with: I wanted to hold onto the Past…

 

The Past

 

The Past Seems Greener

I heard somewhere that the majority of us look back at the past and remember it to be better than it actually was. Thinking about it, I can see this to be true for myself. I look at my childhood and school days fondly. But perhaps I’m remembering it as better than it was.

We can feel depressed when looking back too often. We wish to be back in school, or doing what we used to do. I think people can run back to old relationships for this reason, too. They remember it as better than it was.

But we can’t ever go back. And trying to is only setting ourselves up for misery and disappointment.

Instead, if we can realise that perhaps the past wasn’t as green and rosy as we think it was, perhaps we can make peace with the fact that it’s gone.

 

Who We Used to Be

We can also remember who we used to be and long to be that person again. I wish I was slim again. I wish I was athletic, more confident, and intelligent like I used to be. My identity back then may not have been formed or even understood, but when I look back, it seems better.

But this is a tainted perspective. It is false.

Who we were back then will always seem so much better or worse than it actually was. We can hardly ever gain an accurate representation of who we really were.

Just like we cannot relive moments in the past, we can’t go back to being who we used to be either. Or rather, we can’t force that. We are ever-growing beings. We learn, we change, we adapt. This is a good thing and you should never doubt who you are now by comparing it to your past Self.

 

Everything Ahead of Us

I think the biggest reason for our need to look to the Past with desire is because when we were young, we were filled with endless possibilities. We didn’t yet have a set path. We could be anything.

Our youth was a time when we were confused and scared about who we were, yes, but at the same time that meant we could be anything, which was exciting. And that is better than how it feels now in my twenties. The options seem like less. I’ve started on my road and switching lanes doesn’t seem as easy as it used to be.

If our life is viewed as a road, then in adulthood, we are already along on our journey. But in the past when we were younger, the journey was still stretched out far ahead. We hadn’t really started driving yet. Though that was scary, it also meant we hadn’t yet made mistakes or decided anything.

And I think that’s very alluring and is why the Past beckons…

 

The Present

The Present time, the Now, seems sort of mystical. We can point to the Past with ease and we can talk about the Future in almost the same way, but there is a lot of distaste and confusion with the Present.

Why?

Because most of us are not present in the Present. Our minds, as I say, are either in the Past or worried about the Future…

 

Satisfaction

Most of us are not satisfied with our Present situations. Either we yearn for what we used to have and who we used to be (the Past); or we are waiting for this Future situation or person who we will be.

We’re so busy looking behind or ahead that we barely have time to be at least satisfied with what is right beside us and within us. Eckhart Tolle talks about The Power of Now and I truly believe that there is power in the Now. Yet most of us don’t seek it.

 

Reality

The reason for our dissatisfaction is because reality sucks. The Past seems greener so looking back is tempting. And then the Future, though scary, can also seem like it will be so much better, and so again, it’s tempting to look to and live for this fantasy future ideal.

But we must be in reality. Logically, there is no other time than the Now. The past is gone and no longer exists. The Future is unattainable because when we get to “the Future,” it will be the Now! So in reality, we must be right here, right now.

 

Identity

The only way to gain a real sense of Identity, I think, is to look to who you are right now. Not who you used to be, for that no longer matters. Not who you hope to be, because that steals time and happiness from you. But instead who you are in this present moment.

Mistakes, imperfections, scars and all: who are you in this present moment?

There is no other You that matters. There is no other You that you can be today. Fighting against yourself doesn’t work.

Yearning for who you used to be, or hating yourself for who you used to be, does not change who you are right now. Yearning for the fantasy image of who you want to be, or worrying that you will never be anything better, again, doesn’t change who you are right now.

You must accept who you are to then love who you are to then gain a sense of personal identity that can blossom. To adapt and grow naturally as you live your life from a healthy perspective in the Present moment, always.

 

The Future

As aforementioned, the Future doesn’t exist; in that, you can never reach the Future for once you’re there, it will be your Present. Therefore, I think it is illogical to live for the future. To worry about, plan for, or put energy into a future life or a future you…

Control

I get why we look to the Future. We always want to better ourselves, or the ambitious among us want to keep working towards goals and dreams that will, of course, push them to think about their future.

All natural, all normal.

However, looking to the future and planning for it or obsessing over what it could be, does steal time from you. You miss out on the gift of the Now. Of who you are in the growing, learning, changing space of time within your life right now.

And this is a special, beautiful time. The space between who you used to be and who you will later become is called YOUR LIFE. That means that if you wish to skip forwards, you’re actually asking to skip your life.

Doesn’t sound too good, does it?

You may be dissatisfied with your life or who you are. I get it, I am too sometimes. But the person you are isn’t less worthy than who you may later become. Because as a whole, all of it is you. All of it.

The past, the present, and the future. Who you were, who you are, and who you may become. All of it is you, and all of it isn’t you.

But the only one that can truly count is the You that you are right now.

So yes, we look on towards the Future because we feel like we must control the outcome. We must be planning for it in order to make it the right thing. But in life, you can’t control or plan for everything and trying to do so only sets you up for a fail.

 

Uncertainty

Of course, there is a lot of fear about the Future. They say those who are depressed live in the Past and those who are anxious live in the Future. This to me seems somewhat accurate.

Because the future is uncertain and unknown which is terrifying for many of us.

I think our need for control stems from our fear. We’re afraid of a bad future, so we must control our lives to ensure that doesn’t happen. We want to be perfect people in the future, so we must obsess and strategise to make that happen, right?

Wrong.

Yes, the Future is uncertain and unwritten. But I think if we trust ourselves then we will be OK. With self-awareness and trust, we can only ever do and be what is right for us; but that does always depend on the Present moment, not the Future.

 

Possibilities

The Future is like Schrodinger’s Cat, it both is and isn’t whatever we envision it to be. Only once we get there and open the box can we know for sure what it will be. Therefore, doesn’t it seem sort of illogical to obsess about the future as much as we do? Especially our future selves?

The Future is full of endless possibilities for all of us and in one way, that’s scary; but more importantly, it should be comforting. It means that we can do or be anything. Life is abundant for those with an open mind.

The way I see it, we should look at the possibilities of the Future as a comfort that allows us to breathe, let go of the need to control, and just focus on the Now. Do what we’re doing now with all our attention. Be who we are now with intention and authenticity. And trust that your life (not your future) will be all that you want it to be naturally.

Because we can never envision our lives as they will actually occur. We can’t plan for it. All we can do is trust, let go, and live now.

 

Conclusion

We must focus our energy on our Present selves. No other “version” of us matters as much as the Present one does.

By putting our energy into who we are right now, we will ensure that we are who we want to be. We will then be able to live to the fullest; live with intention and authenticity. We will be able to be our best selves because we only care about who we are today.

Because in truth, all we have is a long set of Todays. So if you are trying to be another You that is not the Present one, you are living a fantasy.

Bring yourself back to reality. See the beauty that is already within you. Accept and love yourself, and allow openness and trust into your life. Then, you can’t go wrong. Then, your sense of personal identity will be one that you find happiness in.

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