“We may be through with the past, but the past is never through with us.” -Narrator (Magnolia, Screenwriter: Paul Thomas Anderson)
“Another year you made a promise
Another chance to turn it all around
And do not save this for tomorrow
Embrace the past and you can live for now”
-Great Big World (Songwriters: Ian Axel / Chad Vaccarino)
I’m a big proponent of setting goals and living deliberately to achieve the life you want. I’ve been devoted to that (sometimes faithfully, sometimes half-assed) ever since high school. That being said, when I look back on my life thus far, I’m so grateful things didn’t work out exactly how I envisioned.
The detours, the asides, the meanderings, the deviations, and the circuitous routes have made me who I am.
I love the line “embrace the past and you can live for now” in the song I quoted above. In our rush to start anew, many of us want to forget about the previous year(s) and just charge forward. That might work for some, but I think it’s a bad practice. Certainly don’t dwell on the past (whether it was good or bad) so you’re living in blind nostalgia, but I highly recommend shaking its hand, honoring it, and remembering its joys and lessons.
Once you embrace the past, go ahead and make those New Year’s Resolutions, set those intentions and goals, and bust your ass to make them a reality. I wish everyone the success they search. But please keep a big picture view on your life as you embark on this journey. Enjoy all the steps along the way and pay attention to every second of it. Fall in love with the moment and the process.
I present to you my life as a public service announcement.
I’ve been trying to be a professional, full-time writer for more than 20 years. I’ve had some successes, lots of disappointments, and on January 9, 2019 I’ve yet to achieve this huge life goal. However, when I look in the mirror, I see someone with a big smile on his face.
Many years ago I lucked into a wonderful full-time job that I continue to enjoy. If I could get into a DeLorean with a flux capacitor and go back to 1998 when I moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter, I truly wouldn’t want to change anything. Because if I found the success I desperately sought back then, I would have missed out on getting to know the hundreds (maybe thousands) of amazing people I’ve been lucky to meet in the last two decades.
In a sense, I feel like Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams.
In 2002 one of my scripts almost got me to my ultimate goal … “it was like coming this close to your dreams, and then watching them brush by you like a stranger in a crowd”, as Burt Lancaster said in the film. When it didn’t happen I was devastated. It took a long time and many dark, gloomy days to get over the disappointment. But I eventually made peace with it, moved on, and let my life take a divergence.
I’m glad that happened. I’m also proud of myself for not giving up on my dream, for continuing to write scripts, short stories, plays, articles, blog posts, and novels. I love the process, and I’ll never stop writing and submitting my work.
I’m hoping my new novel Lost in the Fog will be my big break. But if not, I’ll keep trying.
On that I’ll share with you a picture of my journal from December 31, 1998 written from 1200 North June Street in Los Angeles. 1999 didn’t bring the success I sought, but it sure was a hellva lot of fun. Let’s all party like it’s 1999 2019.