There are seldom pet-peeves that are more pronounced in my life than people who don’t honor their past.
I’m a bit of Nietzsche fan (please don’t stop reading), and in his work, he talks a lot about your past being a constant part of your present. Although I am probably murdering this interpretation because the philosopher’s insights are often blindingly confusing, he believes that in order to obtain redemption from your past, you must change your thinking from “it was” to “I willed it thus.”
You’re neither accepting nor denying the events that shaped you, but instead, staring it dead in the eyes and taking complete ownership of the good, the bad and the ugly. You’re embracing “as-is-ness” of the past.
Say, for instance, you’ve planned a trip overseas despite the fact that flying terrifies you. At first, your mind races with the possibility of having a panic attack on the plane and the potential of hating the country you’re traveling to scares you. According to Nietzsche, you’re going to neither renounce the reality as someone’s else’s decision or mark it with acceptance. Instead, you’ll realize that “you willed it thus.” You bought the plane tickets. You decided to fly overseas. Even if you end of having an awful time, there is no room for regret in a past that you took ownership of.
I am not really sure why, but I find this mindset very comforting. Although it could be very challenging in times of intense grief and hardship, there’s something liberating about Nietzsche in this instance. Granted, I’ve always had an affection for fairly odd fields of thought. Being obsessed with Buddhist detachment made me very few (normal) friends freshman year, but I digress.
So where did this odd philosophical tangent stem from, you ask? Facebook.
Monday morning, I received a “friend request” from a girl (now woman) I have known since preschool. My memories of her include summer afternoons spent hunting for bugs and finger painting in the suburbs of Cleveland, catching fireflies until dusk, and basking in the glory of all things beautiful about being a kid. Throughout our childhood, she was unwaveringly humble, loved her family and maintained a love of her hometown, something that’s very important to me. Despite going to different high schools, from what I could tell, she maintained her “no-fuss” persona.
As my eyes glossed across her profile, I was taken aback by how drastically she had changed. She recently moved to New York City to pursue art, something that at its base is very courageous. But as I looked closer, she had changed her hometown to “New York City,” erased all traces of her past, both good and bad, changed her name to its formal version (a name she used to make fun of) and replaced the warm smile that lit of her face with a stern, mean-mugging picture of her against a blank wall in Brooklyn.
I’m not sure why, but this hurt me.
Was your former Cleveland self not good enough for the big, bad New York woman you want to become? If I still live in the place you called home and love my hometown with my whole heart, does that make me less accomplished than you? Do you really expect people to believe that you’ve been sporting American Apparel crop tops, embraced veganism and mastered the art of hipsterdom by the age of eight? You’re not fooling me.
I know that this all may seem petty, but if there is one thing that I believe, it’s that it is a crime to forget where you came from because you lose your footing. Regardless of where my life takes me, I will always take ownership of my past and make it a part of my present. My dear friend, if you ever glance up from your soy lattes and tumblr account, take a page from Nietzsche’s book.