I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether I focus too much on the past. On what I could’ve done differently. What experiences taught me certain lessons? It’s not just the negative memories I focus on, though. I think back fondly when recalling good friends, happy moments and exciting adventures. Truthfully, I think looking to the past can be valuable—in certain situations.
For instance, being that I was only 20 months old at the time of my open heart surgery, the information given to me was done secondhand. Understandably so. My parents have told me different details over the years but there’s this part of me that wants to know what happened to me. Maybe it’s the writer in me who yearns for the story, who wants to know what everyone was feeling, thinking and experiencing during that time—myself included.
Within the past ten years I’ve had this need to know more about my condition. To want to read the details of my hospital records, interview the doctors, nurses and other families who were waiting anxiously just like my parents were. Quite frankly, I just want to know. I know the basics: low birth weight, ventricular septal defect and pneumonia. I remember the routine of annual visits to St. Chris for my check-ups. I recall how full of life and energy Dr. O’Riordian was, always with a smile on her face. The story about how I was petrified of hospitals when I was a toddler. And on and on. For a very long time it was as though I was hearing someone else’s story. I had no memory of the experience. The actions were not mine. As much as I appreciate everything my family and doctors did for me, there remains a need for closure.
Can focusing too much on the past be detrimental to my present or even my future? I believe there can be a balance. If not knowing the circumstances of the past impedes my present, then doesn’t it make sense to look behind so that I can move forward? Or am I stalling my future by keeping my attention focused in the opposite direction? I have this little saying, “People always say never change, but how can you not?” We’ll all change. We’re bound to and we should welcome it. I know I have. There will always be moments of regret, disappointment or unpleasantness but the core of who I am will never change. No matter past, present or future.
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