Here We Are, Here You Are

Erin Lynch
3 min readJan 13, 2023

--

Past dwelling…ick.

It’s a little hard to believe that we are sitting at the start of another year. I’ve been marveling over the passage of time and just how fast each subsequent set of 365 days rolls by. What happened to lazy summers and drawn-out holiday breaks? That’s me lamenting my childhood btw.

What pulls me back to the present is this quote by Thoreau. He said, “…live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. It’s a bit of a flowery quote, but it reminds me that we all spend way too much time camping out in the past.

I’ve been in therapy for the past two years — Jill and I both for that matter. We weren’t suffering from any specific, deeply traumatic events that we had to overcome. No, that’s not what brought us there. Rather, it was an accumulation of baggage we had been packing with us from childhood on and could not let go of.

Perhaps the most revelatory portion of the therapy process so far, for me, is in realizing just how much I live in the past. I’m truly terrible at letting things go. I overanalyze, self-destruct, and then I do it again, and again, and … [insert loop here].

What I’ve come to understand is that living in the past clouds the future. When we allow ourselves to be consumed by past mistakes, personal or professional, we can’t get clear about our path forward.

In order to do away with the habit of looking backward, my therapist put some rules into place:

  1. I am only allowed to spend five minutes per day dwelling on unconstructive past thoughts — in other words, there’s no real time to sit around and beat myself up about failure, weakness, and the other crap littered around my mind palace.
  2. I am only allowed to access old memories if I am observing them through the lens of learning — this reframes how I access the past allowing me to avoid a past mistake here in the present.

Two rules, that’s it. Doesn’t seem tough, and yet…

It really takes time to get to the point where this can be done consistently. I DO NOT have this worked out yet, but I’m getting better.

Here’s the point of all this. As creative professionals (and as humans) we have a responsibility to support our clients, our team, our humans — we have to show up every day ready to play. Living in the past is counterintuitive to that role. Needlessly dwelling on the past creates unnecessary trauma.

When we access the past with a view to course correcting for the future, that’s when real growth is made. Everything else should be background noise.

What happened in 2019, 2020, 2021, last year, etc. is now in the past. There’s not a thing we can do about what’s written in that book, so let it go. When you do read the pages of that past book, make your annotations in the present. That type of thinking (being present) will change your future. There’s work to be done and I (we) need to be present for it.

This article was originally published as a free post in my newsletter, Past Tense. My weekly newsletter is about being a designer, educator, entrepreneur, creative professional, and neurodivergent human.

--

--

Erin Lynch

Designer, writer, pixel articulator, educator, and neurodivergent human. Subscribe to my newsletter, Past Tense, at erinlynch.substack.com