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Putting the Past Behind You

I have mentioned Jacques Derrida’s essay “On Forgiveness” on this blog, but it recently came back into my life for a different reason: my career.

The point Derrida makes in his essay is that to forgive means to forget; to forget means to make a conscious effort not to dwell on the past. This act of forgetting does not equal amnesia; instead, it is the act of putting one’s entire faith into believing that something bad will not happen again. In family life, for instance, forgiving an adultery means to forget that adultery exists; to treat your partner as if they never cheated on you, and to treat yourself like you are not worthy of being cheated on. In politics, this would be about treating the war as if it does not exist, so that you can never use it as the means to solve problems.

The problem that was holding me back, as I recently discovered, has to do with rejection and the lack of appreciation. People around me at the moment give me a lot of support and encouragement, something I have not had for some time. They believe in me, they see me as a winner, and I know I am going to amaze myself with my achievements this year. But something wasn’t quite right. It finally downed on me yesterday exactly what it was.

It was the past experience.

So many times have I put past experiences behind me. God knows, I could already be very cynical, but I have always made a conscious effort not to let this happen. Yet in the field of my career, in the matters involving career progress and money, the negative experiences outweigh the positives. I have always worked hard but this was often taken for granted. As much as I can say that I should have been more demanding of recognition, I cannot deny that I expected to be recognised for my sheer output, for the amount and quality of my work. It is the direct opposite of my work and achievements in creative and intellectual fields where I have always been “a high roller”.

As they say, the moment you identify the problem is the moment you can expect to find a solution. And this is where Derrida enters the picture. I cannot change the past, but it is entirely in my capacity not to let it further ruin my life prospects. I hear a lot of talk about “taking control”, and this is exactly what I am doing. I cannot change the past, but I can take it to a remote barn, stack it there, close the door, and never go there again.

I share this because at different points in our life a lot of us find ourselves in precisely the same situation. Something just does not let us move on. Something keeps playing the trick. Do not be afraid of confronting it. Strangely, the same relates to the positive experiences. Do not dwell on the past glory, do not try to repeat it. Instead, take every single opportunity as if it is happening to you for the first time ever, and make the best of it.

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