There is something deeply thought provoking about that line from the James Bay song; every time I hear it I am transported to a hundred memories and situations that seem a million miles away from my current situation.
The nature of this life is one of continuous change, we generally kick against the transience of situations and (from childhood) long to replicate good times and memories. Some of us visit childhood holiday destinations with our own children in the vain hope that we can somehow live again in a happy moment; or we seek out old friends on social media in some misguided attempt to reconnect with people that are no longer part of who we are. I have walked down streets that I played on as a child looking for the ghosts of the people who meant so much to me at the time and whose childhood quirks have been airbrushed out of the pictures in my mind.
The beauty of good memories is that they are good, but only in retrospect, Harry Belafonte sang that "life's a road we walk but one way down," we filter out the awkwardness of childhood and teenage years and have only the idealistic reality that we choose to remember. In some ways this is a self preservation instinct that is built into each one of us to allow us to move on and forward in life. Many who simply stop in life are crippled by memories of terrible events that shook their entire existence; ironically, people that have survived cataclysmic historical events manage to bury the trauma deep inside and never again revisit them, drawing a deep line which they refuse to cross or acknowledge.
I believe that the people we now are is such a rich tapestry of our experiences we do ourselves and those around us a deep disservice by shunning the road which led us here. Movie history is littered with stories of people who reinvent themselves in a new town and try desperately to hide who they once were; unfortunately in a media driven world no stone is left unturned when a person becomes public property and every detail is raked over. It takes a very measured and clever person to hide a past.
One of the phone companies ran a commercial a number of years ago which pointed out that we are the sum of all the experiences and people we have come across up to now. I forget the point from the business standpoint but it hit home to me the truth of the statement.
We are who we are, but we don't need to stay where life has driven us; we have the tremendous privilege of being able to change. In the prisons around the world men and women are languishing, waiting for release or death; others in those same prisons are formulating plans for their future by studying, working out or planning another crime. It was while in prison after the fall of Baghdad that the seed of a middle east caliphate formed in the mind of an ex secret policeman, we now see that in motion. It was in a cell in South Africa that a former terrorist was reformed into a statesman.
The point is that we are held prisoner only by our own limitations; no matter what our circumstances are we can think big thoughts and make small changes to affect our outlook.
I am prone to poetic thinking, not that I write poems, but I like the mind which came up with a thought like James Bay did in his song from which this all stemmed. I have been chagrined for it in the past by more black and white thinking men but I prefer to walk with the poets and dreamers even if only by enjoyment. The problem with this type of thinking in me is that it tends to inaction and over thinking things instead of applying what I write.
We need the men who are like blunt instruments and equally we need those who are dreamers but both can lose the point in the here and now. We must accept and learn from our past experiences while pressing forward to what is to come and all the while living fully now; I need to get that.
I do take my kids on the occasional holiday to where I used to live, where I was happiest, and they now have a great love for it as well. My son learned to cycle there, my daughter and son dug a hole so deep in the sand that we needed steps to get them out; they have the same happy distant look when we mention the town. One day they may make new memories with their own children there as well.