Maybe there is something more to the Biblical story of Lot’s wife than we always realize. Something perhaps not intended but which is there just the same. Looking over one’s shoulder back to the past can be a dangerous, sometimes deadly thing. There is glamour to the past, a haze that makes you forget the reality of what it was like. Need an example?
Do you really think the 1950s, with its women’s and racial oppression, with its limited view of anything that ran against the norm, was really that amazing? Sure, our memory of it is, but was the era that great? Same with the 1980s, an era of excess and selfishness. It isn’t that those times didn’t have amazing aspects but that if we forget the issues we lose sight of how truly good some things were.
Such is the case of me of late. I am preparing for the release of my first and probably only novel and in getting that together I have decided I wanted to see what weird stuff I could come up with to put out with it. I had recently moved so it was a good time to go through my little archive.
And an archive it is. I found drawings that went back to the late 1980s, when I was not even a teenager yet. I found the first submission version of my first book. I found old school papers, old versions of stories, and all manner of ephemera that showed the path my art has taken. From drawing faces, to space ships, to monsters, to zombies, to nothing for a long, long time, to the modern era of silly monsters. I put much of this work in a large binder for people to go through at the book release party and seeing it all, from the weird magazine I made as a kid to the early version of the first book it reminded me of the weird path I have taken to get where I am. It reminded me of how foolish I have been.
As I have said before I was told when I was eighteen and in a Commercial Art course that I was no artist. It was the nastiest, meanest thing I could have heard and it cut deep enough to stop me from doing art regularly, seriously for a long, long time. I was told it by a nasty teacher who didn’t like that I had gotten into the class not on merit but because I was in Special Ed. I was certainly not the best artist there, and I am not a great artist in any way, but you can see in my work I was trying, just not always succeeding. Maybe I should have been better. I can’t say. I can say that I am sorry for halting my art for so long. I am sorry that I let someone do that to me. I will never know if I had become a painter earlier, if my art would have changed, gotten better, maybe even worse over the years.
It’s not as easy to be hard on myself about writing. Even though I couldn’t find a publisher I was always writing. I was putting together ‘zines, chapbooks, and blogging and reviewing constantly. I was certainly not lazy over those years. I do wish I had had a better outlet for my writing. In the marketplace that exists you have to be someone to get published in a paying publication and the alternative are sites with few views and no money and at that point the benefit of your being published gets dicey. Though I tried, to be sure. I have to admit though that I wish I had had more outlets for my writing. Having said that though, I did pretty ok keeping my head up through all that time. In the ten years between books I wrote a novel, hundreds of stories, and never stopped promoting my one book that was out. I never gave up. I can’t say that it lead me anywhere, but it didn’t lead me to an ending of my writing, which I am thankful for.
But there’s the thing.
The past is beautiful, is full of hope, of promise, of everything you dare to dream. It is in the present that reality sets in and you see the limitations of your situation. The future, the future is the real blank slate but it is often a slate that is colored by who you are today, and limited by that same thing. You can soar or crash based on how you act and react today. It’s just a fact. But looking over your shoulder and what was and could have been will get you nowhere.
You need that knowledge, that perspective to move forward. You need to know what you did right, wrong, and what paths you may have taken so you can see where you want to head as you move toward the future. Without that knowledge you begin going over the well-worn tracks you are already in and it’s a lot harder to see the future from the bottom of a rut. But perspective, true perspective is knowing what things to value from the past and present and what to walk away from and survive.
Sometimes all it takes to change your fate is to survive, yourself, others, and the overpowering will of life. And sometimes you need to know you can survive to keep fighting and keep not give up.
And it’s all about knowing when to look back and when to keep walking forward, knowing that nothing lies behind you but the past.