Looking Back

“Don’t look back — you’re not going that way.” – Mary Engelbreit (excerpted from her poem).


I’ve seen this quote popping up all over facebook recently, probably because it’s right around graduation. I’m sure there are a lot of people looking back because they have no idea what’s coming next and sometimes it’s easier to look back than it is to face the fear of the unknown.


I must admit I’ve been doing a lot of looking back myself because I’m not happy where I am. I recognize there’s a benevolent force in my life, guiding me, but that doesn’t always mean I like where I’m going even if it’s in my best interest. Like how even at this moment I’m hearing the pulse of music blaring downstairs. I am extremely grateful it should stop by 10 p.m. but I’m realizing I don’t want to hear music playing ever. That if given a choice I would choose silence at all hours of the day. So I’m looking back. I’m reminiscing about when I stayed in a converted monastery in Italy, or visited my parents in Seattle, or any of the countless times I’ve stayed someplace quiet, wishing I could be back there.


It’s a whole lot easier to think about the “good ole days” than it is to sit with the discomfort of the here and now. So I look back. At the same time I recognize the futility of looking back because being wistful accomplishes nothing. There is a reason I’m not living in Italy, or Seattle, or someplace else in San Francisco. There’s a reason I am where I am. And if I’m forever looking back I’m missing out on the here and now. The rest of Engelbreit’s poem, which is quoted less often, is this:

 When you travel though life there are always those times when decisions just have to be made And the choices are hard and solutions are scarce and the rain seems to soak your parade!

There are some situations where all you can do is simply let go and move on
Gather courage together and choose a direction that carries you toward a new dawn.
So pack up your troubles and take a step forward the process of change can be tough

But think about all the excitement ahead if you can be stalwart enough!
There could be adventures you never imagined just waiting around the next bend
And wishes and dreams just about to come true in ways you can’t yet comprehend!

Perhaps you’ll find friendships that spring from new interests as you challenge your status quo
And learn there are so many options in life and so many ways you can grow!
Perhaps you’ll go places you never expected and see things that you’ve never seen

Or travel to fabulous faraway worlds and wonderful spots in between!
Perhaps you’ll find warmth and affection and caring a “somebody special” who’s there
To help you stay centered and listen with interest to stories and feelings you share.
Perhaps you’ll find comfort in knowing your friends are supportive of all that you do

And believe that whatever decisions you make they’ll be the right choices for you!
So keep putting one foot in front of the other and taking life day by day
There’s a brighter tomorrow that’s just down the road
Don’t look back — you’re not going that way!


Yes, it’s a little cheesy, but it’s also true. I have no idea what’s ahead so if I keep looking back I might miss out on what’s ahead. And who knows, maybe the temporary discomfort will pass and things will get loads better. I’m not going back. I’m charging ahead.


I dream of a world where we don’t look back, we look ahead. A world where we open ourselves up to what’s before us and understand pain and discomfort is only temporary. A world where we know there are no “good ole days,” because there’s a reason things aren’t that way anymore.


Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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