Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has been one of my favorite books ever since I first read it back in the dark ages of the mid-1980’s. The story of Scout, Jem, Atticus, Boo, Tom and Dill always resonated with me, not so much because of the moral messages, but moreso because it brings back memories of childhood summers, when I didn’t have to have a care in the world. In fact, when I used to teach summer school, I would save this book for the last book we would read, hoping that it would make the same impact on my students, but I could never read the last two pages out loud because they made me tear up.
Yes, that’s the sap in me.
But, that’s also the problem with me.
There’s a difference in looking back fondly on wonderful, nostalgic memories and in letting the past having a hold on the present. And that’s where my guilt lies.
I have spent too much time over the last 20+ years looking back in retrospect. They say that “Hindsight is 20/20,” and I completely agree with that. My problem, though, is that I wasted hours re-doing events from the past 20 or so years in my mind the RIGHT way, and wistfully wishing for the impossibility of a different outcome. The bad decisions, the heartache, the burned bridges, the wasted money…all of it.
I am guilty of letting past failures overshadow present goodness and worth, which as a result negatively affected my PRESENT peace of mind and wasted time I could have spent in a more positive manner.
This ties in perfectly with what I found to be the most powerful three sentences in Harper Lee’s newly released and highly anticipated book, “Go Set a Watchman.” Since “TKAM” is one of my favorite books, and since I am a high school English teacher, I had to get the book the day it was released. Once it was in my hands, I finished it in three days.
If you haven’t read it, this will not be a spoiler by any means, and I do not wish to discuss any praises or flaws with the book itself.
However, this one passage really hit home:
“Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.” – Dr. John Finch/Harper Lee
When I read that, I stopped and re-read it at least 3o times. I wrote it down in on a post-it to put in my planner. And I really thought about it…
It is easy to look back and see what we WERE…it is hard to see what we ARE.
And it is so true.
For years, instead of seeing what I AM, I saw what I WAS, which as Dr. Finch said, was easy to do.
But, doing that took precious moments and time away from my PRESENT and my FUTURE, leading to stress and disappointment, to disillusionment and bitterness rather than to acceptance and peace.
I “SEA” WHAT I AM.
I definitely haven’t mastered it like Dr. Finch advised, but I realize the importance of what I AM and of my place in the NOW.
I cannot change the past. That is done. And it took me this long to finally admit it.
I will no longer wish to change or apologize for the things I did or the choices I made. I’ve done my time and asked for forgiveness for too long, most importantly, from myself.
Instead, the person I AM, who is a result of all of those things and choices, forgives me and will focus on and live in the PRESENT (while acting responsibly for my future self).
So, what am I? Well, let’s “sea”…
I am a wife. A partner. A writer. A photographer. A teacher. A student. A sister. A daughter. An aunt. A daughter in law. A sister in law. A friend. A colleague. A collector. An observer. A reader. A thinker. A doer. An ambassador for kindness. A traveler. A woman. A person. An “endurer.”
And, most importantly, I am a human following Dr. Finch’s advice of mastering the art of seeing what I am, one day at a time.
So, what are you? I’d love to know.
Until next time,