The concept of a fresh start is a powerful one. The idea of a do-over; being able to remake ourselves as we wish and leave our past behind.
I assume that this idea is most powerful for those of us who have had painful pasts which we would rather leave behind. Perhaps we have been hurt… perhaps we have hurt others, and wish to undo our mistakes by undoing ourselves.
For the past few days I’ve been exploring an amazing part of the world, where mountains and bush meet blue water and sandy beaches. It’s a place where people are friendlier, the air is a bit clearer, and you have everything you need while still being far enough removed from the rest of the world to feel peaceful and free.
This is exactly the kind of place someone might come for a fresh start.
The problem is, though, that the idea of a fresh start in life is only an illusion.
Humans are complex creatures. Our experiences in life shape us. They shape who we are, how we relate to the people and world around us, and how we understand or perceive the world and our place in it. We can never escape our past, because we carry it around with us in ourselves.
Even if you were to move down here to one of the remotest parts of the world in order to start your life over, it will eventually creep back into your life through the very things you do, words you say, and thoughts you have. You will see your past, your mistakes, and the hurts you’ve experienced every time you react to others in self-preservation. Every time you overreact to the slightest appearance of rejection. You will find it every time you find yourself feeling inexplicably unworthy.
We all like the idea of having the power of control over our own lives; the power to change ourselves and rebuild ourselves. The power to be anyone we want to be. But the reality is that while we have the power to direct our future, we are powerless to change our past.
The good news, though, is that we don’t have to remain victims of it.
We cannot rebuild ourselves from scratch. In that sense, a fresh start is impossible. But we can rebuild ourselves from where we are now. This doesn’t happen by running away to remote islands, cutting family and friends out of our lives, and starting again where nobody knows our name. It comes by accepting what has happened to us. By working through the pain, the rejection, the disappointments, and the mistakes. It comes by apologizing to those we have hurt, and forgiving those who have hurt us. And it comes by understanding who we have become because of our past. Which parts of ourselves we do need to change, which parts we need to grow, and which parts of ourselves we need to hold onto and love unapologetically.
Once we have truly come to terms with our past, we find the power and control over our future. A fresh start does not come by running from our past. It comes from embracing ourselves. Embracing the pain, the scars and ugliness, the mistakes and hurts, the failures. But also embracing the strength and perseverance, the achievements, the love and laughter, and the beauty.
We embrace ourselves in a parting gesture towards those things we need to let go of and say goodbye to. And we warmly embrace those things in welcome which we will carry into the future to become the best form of ourselves that we can be.