WORDS | AUBREY JOHNSON
PHOTOS | MARISS EANES
You and I go way back. You actually used to be one of my favorites. There were moments when there was little I enjoyed more than pouring over wrinkled and hole-punched pictures, trying to make the perfect tribute to the times I missed. I worked tirelessly to encapsulate my life in just the right way and make it look like the best dang Pinterest board anyone has ever seen.
Indulging nostalgia made my past life shine. It made me ache for views that had made my eyes swell, people that had changed me, and challenges that now seem easy. It fed the idea that my life was somehow better back then, outside of the daunting now.
I didn’t know it, but I was conditioning myself to resent the present.
I was telling myself that my life now is substandard to my life as it was. I chose the most glorious, vivid details from a time that I labeled as positive and used those thoughts to tell myself that it was somehow better than life now. Sure, things have changed – my problems now involve a lot more bill-paying and food-scrounging than they did in college – but highs are highs and lows are lows, no matter what stage of life I’m in.
The problem with compiling a perfect past is that we end up feeding ourselves lies – bold-faced, shallowly constructed lies. We spend too much time writing the tale of our over-glorified pasts, binding it up in a subtly distressed, leather-bound cover, and titling it When All Was Well.
This lie breeds the idea that only by recreating what we had can we feel right and whole again. We are trying desperately to claw our way back to the safety that only existed in a pre-Fall Eden. We are sorely missing perfection. And rather than seek the One who can show us flawlessness, we project notions of perfection on our fondest memories.
Take a good second (or thousandth) look. Those times might have been great, but they were far from perfect. There was just as much uncertainty and awkwardness in life then as there is in life now:
You absolutely had adventures in college and laughed alongside amazing people, but you also cried between classes and made yourself sick under extreme pressure.
That job as a camp counselor had all the makings of an idyllic summer, but you spent your days missing college life and nursing your sunburns.
The missions trip you went on taught you so much about your Creator and his world, but you failed to catch the fact that much of what you did to serve there is pretty much exactly what you can do to serve at home.
Post-grad life is weird and oftentimes really hard, but it is also full of unique possibility that I have yet to experience.
Wedding pictures are fun to look back on, but I’ll take a slow-moving Saturday with my husband as we are now over the underfed and over-stressed fools we were that day.
I may have looked beautiful going out with my friends years ago, but I feel just as beautiful in the skin my Creator has crafted and reworked to this moment.
I’m done enhancing and pouring over my carefully cultivated past rather than polishing my present. I see the glories of past experiences as well as their flaws, and I’ll pay the same courtesy to my life as it is now: full of promise that my pictures can’t give.