Me looking ready to go camping. That little green tent is still with us---David and I used it on our most recent camping trip.

Living in the Past (+Poem)

I’ve always been inclined to living in the past. For evidence, you need look no further my many-years-long effort to transcribe all of my old journals. Here’s a sample:

Part of a transcribed journal, dealing with two typical days in middle school.

Part of a transcribed journal, dealing with two typical days in middle school. Wasn’t I Mister Overachiever back then! It’s almost like I felt my worth derived from my abilities or something….

Now tell me, do you know anybody else who’s transcribing their journals? I’ve kept a ridiculous number of the darn things, too—maybe 20 official journals and 20+ other notebooks. It’s over twenty years’ worth, of which I’ve transcribed perhaps 25-30% after a decade of trying. (The PDF of all the transcriptions is 374 pages long already.)

Perhaps once or twice a year I seem to find myself consumed with the thought of “the way things were.” For a few days all I can think about is the past—the people, the events, the stories I tell myself about the people and the events.

I’ve lately come to this thought: if I’m so inclined to live in the past, maybe there’s something I need to do there.

For many of my growing-up years I didn’t feel like there was anybody with whom I could discuss events in my life. My parents were often distracted or overwhelmed by their own problems, so instead of sharing my struggles with them I often kept things to myself and soothed my emotions by writing in journals.

That’s why I can’t let these old journals go: they contain my story, as it happened, for basically all of the most significant events in my life. The story that I never shared with anyone, the things I didn’t know how to deal with in any other way than to write them down, preserving them for some future day when they could be dealt with properly.

That “future day” is today, isn’t it?

I’d like to start sharing more with people about my life story. I don’t want it to feel like a big secret that I had to endure on my own. Instead I want to bring it out into the open where it can be enjoyed, learned from, and (hopefully often enough) laughed about, in the company of the family and friends that I love.

Here’s a little poem I wrote that I think captures the sentiment. (The poem actually motivated the blog post, not the other way around.)

Living in the Past

“Don’t live in the past.”
But the past lives in me,
Its people and places,
The joys, the pains,
All inside me living their days
Over and over and over again.

“Look to the future.”
I try, but when I do
All these long-gone faces
Crowd into my view.
I race ahead, try to leave them behind.
They clutch at me, drag me back in time.
I see the future’s not for me
So long as ghosts are my associates.

It’s time to go back.
It’s time to set things right.
The darkness makes them stronger—
I must bring them out into the light.
Those wrongs that can’t be righted
Will at least be cared about.
Those pains that can’t be soothed
Will be turned to new purpose.

3 thoughts on “Living in the Past (+Poem)

  1. Gabriel Proulx

    I very much relate to this. I’ve found times that I’ve lived in the past. It hasn’t been so recently. But absolutely. It seems so idyllic at times.

    Your journals are fascinating. I remember running across some of my own years ago and being astounded at how precise I was in recording everything. I wrote the exact time I left for school, or how many minutes we were late to church. I found it amusing. I enjoyed reading that clip. I think you should post some more as an ongoing series. It’s fascinating to read the unfiltered mind of someone else.

    Recently I’ve started writing in a journal again, but on a weekly basis. I feel like years have gone by with no record to show for it. So, I started again. It feels good to be recording. I’ve also been meaning to blog again. I just never get around to it.

    Well, hope you are doing well. Keep posting. I’ll keep reading.

    Reply
  2. Alanna

    I’ve not yet taken the time to transcribe my journals, which are not extensive. But I’ve tried to transcribe text conversations, which frustratingly do not save. Josh, I understand your tendency to be drawn to the past. My own past is invaluable to me, even though there are lots of things that hurt. Your poem brought me to tears, because it resonates so much. I’m so glad you’re willing to share more of yourself. So many will be blessed because you’re making an effort to do so. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Josh Hansen Post author

    Thanks, guys! I am hoping to post more journal excerpts in the future. They really can be fascinating, and I think are a good way of simultaneously remembering the past and connecting with other people in the present.

    Gabe, your blog is in my feedly list, so if you post, I will read!

    Good hearing from you both.

    Reply

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