There’s a quote floating around the ether-web, one that says something like “depression is living in the past, anxiety is living in the future.” Poignant words, if I do say so myself. I’m susceptible to both depression and anxiety, and although I’m not a betting man, I’d put my money on the fact that you feel both, too.
Which isn’t a bad thing, of course. It means is that you’re human. Congratulations! But, if you have a great past, or if you have an exciting future, wouldn’t it be beneficial to live in both the past and the future, at least a little bit?
Ok, this all comes about due to a very specific reason. I moved away from San Francisco last week after three amazing years. I met some great people, learned some awesome life lessons, grew to understand myself, and had some setbacks along the way. And of course, at the end of my time there, I was sad to leave. A large part of me didn’t want to go.
I drove away with a mixed bag of emotions, partially brought on by the hangover I was nursing and the fact that someone broke into my car on my last day in the City and took…nothing. Thanks for that, by the way.
But the fact remains. I was emotional. Further, I couldn’t quite put a finger on what I was emotional about, or what emotion I was even feeling.
You see, when we make a life change, we actively push ourselves out of our routine. And since humans need a routine to feel somewhat in control, when it comes time to move onto the next chapter in our lives, there’s a part of us that says we’re making the wrong choice. Why move on when things are so normal here? I’m comfortable, why make myself uncomfortable?
But of course, if you’re familiar with this blog, then you know that I’m a big proponent of maximizing your life experiences and continuously stepping outside of your comfort zone. So, adding more and more chapters to your life is inherently a good thing. But sometimes, moving on from your current chapter feels wrong.
Living in the past causes depression, if you agree with the quote above, and when we move on, we actively reminisce on what we’re leaving behind. We cause ourselves to feel slightly depressed about the trajectory of our lives, wondering what we’re forgoing by moving on.
What if I ruin my friendships? you might say to yourself. What if I miss an opportunity if I go?
What if, what if. Well, how about this: What if I miss out on an infinite number of opportunities and positive life experiences if I stay?
You see, when you stay within your comfort zone because it feels safe, you effectively ensure that your future has no surprises. Not a terrible thing on the surface, yes, but it also stunts the growth and development of your life.
So, human nature aside, I chose to make the move and leave San Francisco. And I think my number one concern was losing the friendships I left behind.
But therein lies the point: I didn’t leave those friendships behind. And if and when you decide to move onto the next chapter in your life, you won’t leave your friendships behind, either.
Let me say this before we go on: feeling sad about moving on is a good thing. It means that the experiences you had were positive and your life was better having done it. It would actually be worse if you couldn’t wait to start the next chapter and get the hell out of your current one. That would mean it wasn't a positive experience. So, in effect, sadness is positive.
Now, back to the point. Moving on doesn’t mean you’re leaving anything behind. In fact, it means that you’re expanding your sphere of experiences and connections that will only add to the value of your life. Who says that you have to give up one to get the other? If you have a good friend in your current city, and then you move and find another good friend in your new town, why can’t you have both?
In that way your past isn’t your past at all, at least the parts that you want to keep with you. In essence, your past is your present and your future. That is, if you want it to be.
When you move onto the next chapter, you stop hanging with your old friends, and then you see them again and you pick up right where you left off. You've effectively ensured that your past doesn’t remain in the past. You pull the positive aspects of your life forward into the present and make plans to keep them into the future.
In that way, moving on is the best thing possible, because you can actively choose what you want to hold onto, and what you want to let go for good.
The experiences were in the past, yes. And so too was your living situation. Your - or my - time in San Francisco is now literally in the past, but the connections you make carry forward into your life forever.
I was reminded of this when I recently commented on my old roommate's Facebook status. I met him in San Francisco and I no longer live there, but I can still remain in close contact. And anyway, there are a ton of friends who live in your same city who you may not see for months at a time. How different is that from a situation when you move away and then visit once every few months?
You see, once you make a connection and a friendship, it’ll be there for as long as you want to keep it going. And the ones you don’t want to keep going you let fall to the wayside. So in that way, moving to the next chapter in your life is a great way to cull through your connections and keep the meaningful ones, just like you have to do with all your crap when you move.
I guess this long diatribe is to tell you to do it. Move. Enter that next chapter in your life. It’s a lot less scary than you think.
And I guess this was for me, too, like most of these articles end up being. Because leaving is hard if you had a good time there. But leaving the next place will be hard too. Good, it means you’re living a life of influence and value.