Connecting the dots backwards

Photo credit David DeHetre // Flickr Creative Commons
Photo credit David DeHetre // Flickr Creative Commons

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs

Hindsight is a weird yet wonderful thing. Do you ever have moments when you feel an overwhelming gratitude towards your past hardships? When you’re actually thankful you went through a shitty situation because it’s added value to your life in some way?

I find these moments both infuriating and inspiring. Infuriating, because they challenge my perception of the past. Inspiring, because they offer an alternative story to the doom & gloom I’ve built up in my mind.

I had a moment like this recently. I realised one of my closest friends wouldn’t be in my life if we hadn’t both been in the same challenging job. I used to think of my time in this job with regret and frustration – it was a tough role – and see it in purely negative terms.

But this way of thinking gets you nowhere. Negativity wins. When you allow yourself to get bogged down in the negative details, you miss the silver lining.

There’s a difference between being aware that a situation is less-than-ideal and allowing it to consume you. I think I’m finally beginning to understand what it means to make the most of opportunities, no matter how far-from-perfect they may seem on the surface.

Most experiences will lead to greater self-knowledge and a better understanding of the world. You never know when you might need the knowledge you acquire today, but you can almost guarantee you’ll use it at some point in your life.

The trick is knowing when to accept a challenging situation, and when to make a change.

Trust in momentum

A mantra I often repeat to myself is “something is better than nothing”. I tell myself this when I only have a 20-minute window to exercise, or half an hour to catch up with a friend.

Small efforts can reap big rewards, if only you trust in momentum. In putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, not backwards.

Like everyone, I often romanticise the past, especially times when life seemed simpler and easier. But when I ask myself, would you really like to rewind the clock? The answer is always no.

Look beyond the present moment

Sometimes I find myself looking at life through a black and white lens. Labelling situations as ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. Focusing on what I do or don’t like about something and failing to see the bigger picture.

But I am at my best when I live life in the grey areas. When I am able to take a step back and examine my present situation from all angles. This allows me to appreciate life for the complicated, layered, messy wonder that it is.

It also helps me to feel less tied to my choices. All you can do is make the best decision with the information you have available at the time. There is no right or wrong; only forward. It is better to take a step in any direction than let time stand still.

Celebrate at every chance you get

What does hindsight teach me, again and again? To celebrate the small wins. To pay attention to the silver linings. These are the moments you will remember later on.

There’s a part of me that craves perfection; the perfect job, the perfect home, the perfect relationship. But one thing I am realising is that I am always going to be exposed to less-than-ideal situations, no matter how hard I try to create harmony.

If we wait for everything to be perfect, we’ll be waiting a long time. So here’s to the present moment, and having faith that everything will turn out as it should.

We can always connect the dots backwards.

Bittersweet homecoming: what it’s like to come back to NZ after living abroad

Travel changes you in ways you don’t expect. It opens your mind and your heart and your soul to new ways of living and being. It finds beauty in unexpected places and sees pain surface in others. You are the same you, but forever altered by what you have seen and felt. Coming home is often by choice, but sometimes it is the biggest challenge.

My time in Europe feels like a dream now that I am back in New Zealand. It’s easy to forget everything as you fall back into familiar routines. Most of the people that I met were slightly older than me, and doing an exchange in their final semester of university, so many of them stayed overseas and kept travelling, or came back to new jobs and new adventures.

But I went overseas in the middle of my degree, so I have come back to finish it. I have more or less come back to exactly the same life I left behind – which is by no means a bad thing – but it is strangely disorienting. Continue reading