I recently returned to the home I had left 14 years ago. When I left, I was a runner, and when I returned I was a walker. The knee surgery removed my daily pain, but at the cost of having to give up running – an exchange I’d gladly do again. Today, when I walked my old running route I saw things I had never seen before.
I suppose part of it is just reminiscing. I passed the trees that were the source of leaves for grade school leaf collections. I walked through the field behind the school where we launched model rockets, and watched our greyhound run. Everything was familiar, but not the same. The predawn sounds were welcoming and relaxing. I found myself wondering if I had been aware of them when I was younger and was a runner.
On my way back to the house, I could see the steps I had left in the dew-laden grass. It struck me that life is made of paths and tracks, and I wondered if those were analogous to the decisions I had made as a younger man. When we look forward we are looking at a path, but only by looking back, by being introspective, can we tell what tracks the path left behind.
Some of us look back at our life’s path and see a straight line- one day progressing to the next, driven by some internal compass for constant, linear progress. Others look back and see they have taken a more meandering path through life. I doubt that either is better than the other. It seems the important thing is that there is value in occasionally taking a moment to look back from our path to see if the tracks we left make sense.
It seems like such a simple concept now that I am not a young man. Much like it seemed simple to run now that I can only walk. If I have learned anything, it is probably that I should stop now, and look back to realize that the track I just made in the grass as I walked will someday be a distant memory. Just as happened with running, it is inevitable that someday even walking will be impossible.
I am not writing this from a position of pessimism. It is a simple observation inspired by a few lingering footprints seen in the early morning dawn. What we take for granted today will someday be a memory we cannot relive. So my advice is to stop where you are, look back at the tracks of your life, and realize that they cannot be changed, but then look forward and endeavor to ensure the path you choose will be one without compromise. Choose a path that reflects your authentic self and regardless of whether the track is straight or meandering, you will know that it is the track that is you. That is something with which you can live.