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Stop Fighting For A Better Past.

Stop Fighting For A Better Past.

The end of another year and it’s time to reflect and ruminate on the past 12 months. 2016 was a punch in the face for a lot of people. There were personal losses, deaths, political change and upheaval and the incredulousness of how quickly things can change just when you thought the ground under your feet had stopped shifting.

The ground never stops shifting.

The old saying, “the only thing constant is change” comes to mind when summarizing the year that was. And there was certainly constant change. It was a year of “out with the old…and not-so-old” as beloved actors, artists and musicians took their final bow in 2016. There seemed to be so many who died and so many who died at such a young age. It shakes a person to watch heroes, peers and icons of our youth suddenly dying off. It is a glaring reminder of our own impending mortality and it shakes the comforting notion that we, each and every one of us, has so much road left in front of us. We don’t. Life is fleeting and finite.

This was a year of political shape shifting and events that have left people gob-smacked and at a loss for words as to articulate answers to the “how the hell did that happen?” question. The rise of neo-fascism wasn’t just a fringe element occurrence, it shot to the top of the heap like a ballistic missile. Witness the Brexit vote, the right wing political gains in several European countries and the mind-numbing and head-scratching Trump presidential victory. The “deplorables” became the “incomprehensibles”. How the hell did that happen? Any of it? Sorry, no answers forthcoming.

The “deplorables” became the “incomprehensibles”.

Then this year took its personal toll on each of us. In my case my stepfather passed away. This is not just a time of sorrow and loss and grief. The long-term effect of the death of a familial matriarch or patriarch changes the entire dynamic of families. It creates deep caverns of despair. It’s a fundamental shift of the emotional tectonic plates that make us feel secure, safe, cared for and loved. Even my beloved cat died this year, leaving another moat of emptiness in my home.

It’s easy to become mired in the sadness and despair when doing a tragedy reverie. However, it wasn’t all bad. As a matter of fact, there were good things that happened in 2016. Personally speaking, I got to travel to England and Spain for the first time. Spent my birthday in California. Enjoyed several new, challenging and lucrative jobs and cheered as dear friends celebrated new personal and professional milestones. As a matter of fact, if I compare and contrast 2016 to 2015, the last year was leaps and bounds better on many levels and for many reasons.

In the midst of all the change and upheaval and uncertainty and sorrow and joy and adventure, I got a little piece of advice form a guide who helped me through some tough personal times and assisted in breaking a new trail just when I thought I had hit the wall. In the last few moments of our last visit together, he looked at me and said, “Andrew. Stop fighting for a better past.” Then it all fell into place. I can’t change what happened to me years ago. I can’t undo the hurt. I can’t revise someone’s attitude or behaviour. I can’t make someone love me just because I wanted them to. I can’t create a relationship where none existed. I can’t undo mistreatment.

I can’t change the past…but I can change me.

Instead of being weighed down by all those emotional barnacles of the past like some aging steam ship, I chose to slough them off and glide through the water with stealth and intent; easier said than done, but a whole lot better than slowly sinking under the weight of an intractable past.

So, in summation and as a little glimmer for a better 2017, don’t look at 2016 as “the worst year that ever happened”. It wasn’t. There have been worse, there will be worse…and there will be better. Know that you can take what you witnessed, experienced, mourned and celebrated and use those moments as tools to be the architect of a better now and a better future. There are no guarantees, but fighting for a better future is infinitely more satisfying than shadow boxing with history.

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Andrew Vails writing career began in Halifax when he was a child. In Grade 4, he wrote and produced his own series of comic books entitled “Freaky The Frog”, the on-going tale of a little misfit frog and his pals of the pond. Marvel Comics never came knocking but Andrew knew he loved to create and tell stories. Since then, Andrew has worked in advertising, PR and publicity; has interviewed politicians, rock stars and very interesting yet not-so-famous movers and shakers. He has published articles in a variety of local and national magazines and websites. Andrew is currently working on the project queer50.com.


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