I’ve had reason, recently, to look over a digital archive of my older written work.

This can be both a thrilling and harrowing process, as it’s wonderful to make new connections, connect a string of earlier dots and see how they led to where I am now and what I’m thinking about (and how I think), today, and to notice trends and changes: stuff that I’ve been consistent with, metaphors I’ve long leaned on, ideas I’ve fleshed out and made better and sharpened and refined.

But it’s also sometimes a bummer when I see how confidently wrong I was, or revisit work I made in moments that were not great, dredging up bad memories that force me to re-contend with questionable decisions and non-ideal paths and iffy ideas I’ve had and shared and felt pretty good about (until I didn’t).

I tend to think it’s important not to fixate on the past in order to allow ourselves to be who we are, today, in the context of today, so that we’re more capable of intentionally moving toward a better future unburdened (as much as possible) by past mistakes and stumbles and flaws; learn from these lessons (and remedy their impacts where possible), absolutely, but then move on to something better.

That said, rearview mirrors are still mirrors, and they allow us to see where we’ve been but also who we’ve been, and that can be a useful reminder that who we are today isn’t who we’ll always be.

They can also provide us with a montage-like overview of what we’ve overcome, how we’ve flubbed in the past (and how we might correct for errors we’re prone to making before we make them again, in the future), how we might rebalance our unbalanced traits and tendencies, and how we might, as a result, enjoy a more successful (by our standards for the word) future, somewhat less burdened by all those past issues (though no doubt plagued by all sorts of fresh and exciting new ones).

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