Our old skin

Our old skin

Sometimes you get the impression that the things that have happened to you in your life, the things that have shaped you, are still with you. You feel as though they form part of who you are, as if they accompany you in the present and will continue to do so for the rest of your life because, what’s more, that’s how things ought to be. This way of thinking makes you feel as if the past – your past – is an indisputable fact and, for better or for worse, part of who you are.

Thus, you show your willingness to give your all for that thing you were, for that thing you lived through, for how you lived. You defend that pain, or you hide that shame, and you enshrine it because it was real then… and you consider that whatever event once gave it “legitimacy” makes it continue to be “legitimate.”

As if not tending to that tribute of shame or pain were a type of betrayal of the past events themselves, or towards the people with whom you shared them, you end up considering it fair to make yourself indebted to that non-existent balance of shame or pain.

And I say non-existent because that past is not part of who you are now; it’s part of who you were at the time when those situations or life experiences played out in that way for you.

Today you’re a different person – for better or for worse. You probably have more experience and a broader field of view. You have a better understanding of the world than you did at that time, especially if you were a child or a teenager, and the lens through which you now would see those events that marked you wouldn’t be the same as before.

It could even be that you see things really differently now and that, with the lens of today, you could even discover generosity in that time when you experienced abandonment from a partner or parent, or that time when you felt undervalued. In moments when you judged yourself as incompetent because you weren’t able to choose your future, you’ll discover a whole host of views that, going beyond resignation, gave you the ability to try again. When you considered yourself to have been unfair or cowardly, you’ll discover you were responsible and true to yourself.

The idea I’m advancing in this post is related to the right and duty that we have to visit our past from who we are now, taking into account everything we have learned and everything that has become known to us, because perhaps if we do this from where we are now, from this new stage in our life, we may find light where we once saw only shadows, we may find generosity where we believed there to be only exclusion, a lack of knowledge where we perceived injustice, etc.

Or, maybe not… maybe we’ll find exactly the same thing as we found in the past.  But, in any case, by considering who we are today –not who we were and who we will never again be– and by taking into account everything we have learned and everything we have lived through, surely we will be able to decide more freely if what we should feel for that moment of our life is shame or admiration, indifference or esteem, prejudice or pride. Pride because we did things well. Because we did things, at least, as best as we knew how and could at that time.

By revisiting the past from who we are now, by rediscovering it from the point of view of our new capacity and experiences, we can recover that part of us that we thought was lost and make it ours once again. We can dispose of all our potential for development and use it because our old skin –just like the layer a snake abandons after having grown too much to stay inside– doesn’t deserve to continue defining the size of our dreams.

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