Look Back And See How Far You've Come

“When you turn around and find there’s no place left to run

Take a look behind me and see how far we’ve come.”

 -- David Lynn Jones

 This morning, I took an early morning stroll with my trusty German Shepherd and walked through a neighborhood that’s changed a lot in the decade since I moved here. What was once a strongly middle-class area seems to have taken a hit along with the local economy. Many of the houses have tanked in value, and it shows in the wear of paint jobs and overgrown lawns.  

When I got back to my house, though, I stopped in my tracks and looked at it with new eyes. The house is freshly painted, which just seemed like a necessity at the time, but in the early morning sun, the paint practically gleamed. The old porch furniture didn’t match so we got rid of it and painted the porch swing to match the trim. In the last year, we’ve purchased two cars that fill the driveway – one new, one new to *us* - but it’s pretty apparent to even a casual observer that we’re not exactly missing meals at my place. The yard is a mess, but that’s because we’re currently redesigning the landscape – not because there’s a car up on blocks.

Somehow, without my noticing, my house has become one of the nicest ones in the neighborhood.

We strive so much to improve ourselves, to reach our goals, to better our lives that it becomes a daily struggle to get that much closer to the horizon. Myself, I get so caught up in the day-to-day tracking of goals and progress that I just check accomplished items off and don’t revel for long in the achievement of another step climbed. I’m moving fast, moving forward, trying to get to that attainable brass ring that’s just slightly out of my reach.

At times, I can grow frustrated at what seems like a lack of progress. Today, for just a moment, I found myself staring at the present and how far it is from my past. Ten years ago, I was wrestling with a post-layoff depression and had no clear plan for my future. Five years ago, I faced health problems so serious and so permanent that I was sure I’d never hear someone call me “Mama”. Just last year, I was sure that I would end up like my parents, dissatisfied with a 40-hour-a-week job and believing myself incapable of shaping my own professional destiny.

Oh, how times have changed.

I don’t believe that we should never look forward – not at all. We must keep our eyes on the prize – indeed, often, we must act as if we already have that prize in order to attract its reality to us. But it is equally important to periodically pause and look back. Where I was in my twenties, or ten years ago – or even last year – is a far cry from where I stand today.

Sometimes, the best thing I can do to better my chances of moving forward is to turn around and look at where I came from. As we strive to better our lives, how can we possibly fail after having already come so very far?