While vigorously scouring the internet for a well-designed planner (this is of upmost importance. let's get coffee and talk for seven hours about how amazing planners and notebooks and Japanese pens are), I came across one that I liked which had engraved in gold at the bottom: "What should have been, is."
I've heard similar sayings-- from "let it be" to "what will be will be" and of course the always-script-fonted and often floral-print-embellished "everything happens for a reason." But this proverb in particular struck a chord. Perhaps because it was presented on a worthy paper product, perhaps because when I read the words I imagined an old, wise, teeny-tea-cup-holding man in a navy silk kimono saying them, or perhaps (and this is what I'm getting at here so hold on to your kasas) the sentence's very semantics speak in a ghostly whisper, and offer a gentle yet firm assurance of the past; a restful release in full acknowledgement and acceptance for what has been, in order to make room for what is next. The "what is coming" component is implied (unlike many other maxims regarding peace, which often tend to speak primarily toward the future) and is founded upon the stated component of "what already is."
As I have been navigating the pursuit of jobs post-grad (and wondering if I totally sabotaged my entire career path by every little decision made from internship selection to student loan lender), I have thought a lot about the significance of the past and its connection to the present and future. We are all products of our choice, of our experiences, even in some cases our circumstances (don't freak out, self-empowerment people - I'm with you). Where we are in this moment is the product of our journey thus far. Our pasts matter.
And this is something that, for a time, I avoided for fear of stagnation. Mustn't we be constantly changing, improving, moving forward? Our past will hold us back if we look there, right? We are fed, with good intention to be sure, these recurring truths; ones like, "Your past does not define you." And note that I said recurring truths. I don't negate these claims, in fact I concede that your future need not look anything like your past - if you so choose. Who you are today could change in an instant. Want to change something? Okay. Decide that. In ten seconds though, you will be the product of your decision ten seconds prior, ie., your past. So both hold true.
For me, it has often been a challenge to submit to my objective past, to acknowledge it, and appreciate it for what it was, and yet be free from it. When my eyes happened to fall upon the words "What should have been, Is," I was overcome with an unanticipated sense of release - a rushing exhale that seemed to clear the space for what is coming next.
Of course this could all be due to the fact that exactly one day earlier, I had packed up my linens and moved to a new city (Chicago, hmu), and was looking for a sign of sorts to both settle me into where I find myself now and propel me well into the future that is entirely unknown to me. (The first time in my life I have not had control over a PLAN. Pray for ya girl. This is good.) But I think there is something profound about this way of finding comfort for the unknown; because we do know, we know our past, and we can see that in all the previous moments of unclarity and discomfort, life happened. And it led us to here.
Everything that led you to this moment: to this place, to the people around you, and the life you find yourself living, good or bad or enigmatic, happened that way because it really was meant to happen that way. It is. No "should haves" or "would have beens." It just is. And you are.
So in that restful realization, in the submission of the conditional clause, you can breathe. I breathed. And only then did I feel the inner space to be. And to feel lifted out of my past, to have my past lifted from me, and to have room to move forward.
Today, I reflect on my past, on all that has led me to this moment, to this place, to this body I find myself in, and to this brain that thinks these thoughts. I am reminded that looking forward with hope is immensely more feasible by first looking backward. When we reflect in gratitude, and realize that everything that "should have been" is, we see, almost instantaneously, that everything that "should be" will be. May you find rest, hope, and clarity as you journey on.