"I do not know what the future will bring, but it cannot be as beautiful or as satisfying as the past."
I had meticulously copied that sentence in my journal as a 15-year-old and sighed in longing agreement.
Because apparently, at the ripe old age of 15, I had lived so much life as to have built many of my own plantations I could enviously look back on, discontented with the world-weary life I now lived.
It seems that, no matter where we are in life, there is always something to look back on enviously. We compare where we are now with where we were then, and somehow "then" is always shrouded in this pleasant, hazy glow, like dream sequences from 90s sitcoms.
However, if you were to travel with the Ghost of Christmas Past into an actual scene from your past and peek in the windows on yourself in your living room, you would probably find yourself fretting over something, or discontented with something, or complaining about something. You'd remember how, even though you had a job you loved, you couldn't afford to save money or buy socks. You'd remember how, even though you had such close friends around you, you were far from family and sad to miss time with them. You'd remember how, even though you lived in a city that felt like home, you were too stressed out most of the time to enjoy it.
Gandalf says that, in The Lord of the Rings, after Frodo says he wishes that the Ring had never come to him and that none of this had ever happened."So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we must decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
It's one of those quotes that people post on Pinterest on very spiritual backgrounds that they think will inspire them to live different lives. Instead, they just forget about it as soon as it's their turn at the Starbucks drive-thru window.
Not that I have done this.
Don't Pinterest and drive.
I recently met with a woman who, when laid off from work several years ago, decided to use her new-found free time to volunteer with several organizations around town. After doing so, she saw a gap in the programs available and decided to found a new organization specifically geared toward mentoring middle school and high school girls. Now she's retired and leads this nonprofit that serves girls all over the county.
Looks like she didn't sit around on her bumpkin pining for the past, did she? Talk about deciding what to do with the time that is given to you.
I think Ashley Wilkes was right that nothing will be as beautiful or as satisfying as the past, but not because the past is better than the present. It's because the past has already happened and we don't have to work at it anymore. We can simply enjoy the good memories of it and the good fruits from it and not remember how there was still buying milk and there was still loneliness and there were still crises that we weeded through and things we wished for.
The untold want, by life and land ne'er granted,Walt Whitman says that, in his book of poems, Leaves of Grass. I like it because he is saying that sometimes it isn't placed in our laps, and sometimes we must be adventurers and go find it.
Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.
Not necessarily to be ambitious, big-dreaming world-changers who stand on stages and whose names everybody knows, but to be common people who are grateful in the day-to-day, to use both our busy and our not-busy time wisely, to find joy amidst buying milk, to invest what we have (which means being aware of what we have), and not to wait for our lives to work themselves out for our enjoyment but to intentionally make life happen. To give of ourselves and make good use of the time we have and be present.
So that's my little speech to myself. That I'm sharing with you so that I am without excuse to remain stagnant any longer.