Looking Back: A Reflection in the Time of COVID-19

A Blast from the Past: Me and mama at grandma and grandpa's to celebrate my birthday (1999)

My dad always said, “You can never move forward by taking a step backward.”

Basically, he was telling me that you can’t harbor on past mistakes or experiences to progress in life. Push forward, and don't look back. During the height of public health regulations, where many moments feel isolating, the task to not step back in time is damn near impossible.

During the stay-at-home order, I could not help but look back on my past and reflect. At the time I lived alone, and when I had nothing else to do, nobody to talk to, my mind would open up a box of memories and problems. One by one, I unpacked these problems by myself, and it was highly emotional. I felt like I was undergoing an ayahuasca ceremony without the ayahuasca.

And it's gone on for 5+ months.

As someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, I won’t be the first to tell you that the aftermath of coronavirus involves strange dreams, sometimes nightmares. I found that I was not only looking back at my past, but it was coming to haunt me. Dreams of suppressed emotions and experiences rose to the surface and then sunk back down. Their visits, although troublesome, gave me a sense of clarity.

It wasn’t only in my dreams I was forced to relive my past. I often found myself sitting near the window while it was raining (that’s not as depressing as it sounds, I love the rain, it makes me happy) thinking about the exchanges with those I love, the lessons from those I’ve lost, and ways I could have been (and could be) better.

Although I will forever cherish my father’s sentiment to always persevere forward, I would like to challenge the idea that you should never look back. If I learned anything during this time, it's that there is value in taking a step back and looking at the whole picture. You should look back on every success, every loss, and interactions with people you love, even with people you hate. But why?

Because, in order to grow, it is necessary to take a hard look at your past.

The Buddha once said, “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” You don’t have to be Buddhist to understand the power of these words. I believe this concept is taught in some variation throughout all religions and ideologies.

If we utilize this philosophical blueprint (how much we loved, how gently we lived, and how gracefully we let go of things) to measure the weight of our past actions and reactions, our hearts and our minds can be opened. In the process, we learn invaluable things about ourselves and others. In the process, we grow.

I’d like to end this reflection with a quote that a cab driver once shared with me, “The mind is like an umbrella, it doesn’t work unless it’s open.”

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