We all carry the past with us. In whatever light we choose to view the past – with fond remembrance, regret, sadness, pain – the power of our past stories is undeniable. Lately, I have been thinking about how people always say that the past should stay in the past. And it should – if it causes you pain, if it doesn’t allow you to live or move on – yes, it is time to let go.
‘It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us…on the inside, looking out.’ – Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated.
However, for me, the past is rich material. My emotions, experiences, and memories have partly shaped the person I am now, and are useful for me as a writer. Not because I only write about the things I have experienced or only draw upon my own life story, but because emotion and life experience help you to feel empathy for others. When people have experienced something themselves, whether an emotion or a similar situation, they are often more able to empathise with others. It is not the only way to experience empathy, but one of the ways it becomes more present in your life.
I’m a believer that good writing requires empathy. Empathy is the greatest act of imagination – putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, feeling what they are feeling, trying to see how they see the world. It isn’t charity or sympathy, those are different. When you start to see the world as a connected tapestry of relationships, of possible connections, the world opens up and becomes illuminated.
The past year, I have been trying to connect like-minded people with each other, have seen the possibilities wake up. The way to change the world is one connection after another. I feel that every person has potential, ideas, skills and passion – sometimes we need people to help us move forward on the next stage of our journey. For me, the only thing holding me back is the fear of my own untapped potential. We all have moments of self-doubt and feel unable to move forwards; yet all we can do is take small steps each day leading us towards where we want to be.
Who do I want to be and where do I want to go? These are the two big questions I am holding in my mind. By who, I mean what kind of person do I want to be – how do I want to behave and what do I want to put into the world for other people? Where do I want to go – what are my goals and my aims? When you re-evaluate, it takes time to see the way clearly again.
‘With writing, we have second chances.’ – Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated.