I have been reminiscing a lot this week. First, after buying a purple sweet potato from Whole Foods, I started looking through my blog from the year I spent in Vietnam after college, remembering fondly the memories—the people I met, the friends I made, the exotic food I ate, the interesting customs I got used to, and the gorgeous places I visited. I remembered how accomplished I felt once I could find my way around Hanoi by bike and how carefree I felt for the year.
Then, on Saturday, I went to watch the US National 12k Championships in Alexandria, VA. There were some big names (or as big as names get in distance running), but I didn’t go to see them. I went to see a couple of people I knew from long ago who were racing.
One of the people I watched run was Esther, a girl I ran against while on the cross country team at Calvin. I didn’t know her well, but seeing her made me think back to how much I loved college in general, and running on Calvin’s team in particular. Talking with her after the race, I remembered the camaraderie I shared with my teammates and other fellow runners. Watching the race, I remembered how wonderful it feels to run fast with people you care about towards a common goal.
The other friend I watched run was Craig, a guy I ran with in high school on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona—a really long time ago. I was so proud of Craig, who is chasing his dream of running professionally and is an incredible role-model to young Navajo athletes.
When I talked to Craig after the race, we reminisced about our high school cross country coach who drove us to awesome dirt roads to run and followed us in the school van with the flashers on; who inspired us with the story of Billy Mills, the underdog Oglala Lakota Sioux runner who shocked the world when he won gold in the Olympic 10k; who I trusted utterly, even when he told me I could do things I didn’t think I could, like win Regionals (which I did). I remembered how my high school cross country team was like my family—that they adopted me even though I was the lone, awkward, gangly white kid on the team.
Monday was not my best day, nothing terrible, just a bad case of the Mondays, I guess. I found myself overwhelmed by life and tasks and feeling constantly behind. I have been fighting a calf injury, which I had been handling in a surprisingly level-headed fashion until last night, when it finally caught a foothold in my mind and I found myself frustrated. I was inexplicably tired, unable to focus, and uncertain how I would ever get everything done. I wondered, briefly, why I had chosen such a difficult path.
At some point—likely after a mind-clearing nap, I remembered the sermon I heard last week, one in my church’s current series on Ecclesiastes. The author encourages us to look ahead, rather than behind, saying,
The end of the matter is better than its
Do not say, ‘Why were the old days
better than these?’
For it is not wise to ask such
questions. (Ecclesiastes 7:8a;10)
It’s not that reminiscing is bad, but that we all have a tendency to look back and focus on only the good aspects of our past experiences, forgetting the trials. While this is probably more healthy than dwelling on negative past experiences and becoming bitter, when we forget the less-awesome parts of our past, it is easy to become dissatisfied with our present.
I am guilty.
In all my delightful reminiscing last week, I brushed over some interesting details, like the following: When I was in Hanoi meeting all the awesome people and having such a great experience, half the time I was stalking Calvin friends on Facebook and wishing I was back in college. When I was running at Calvin, I was always unhappy with my performances, wishing I was faster. And I forget how hard it was for the first few years after my family moved to the Navajo Reservation—how long it took me to call Arizona home.
Personally, I think it’s okay to look back sometimes—but with the intention to learn from the past, rather than to live in it. Heck, it’s fun! But it is important to remember it all, if possible—to think about the hard parts as encouragement not only that this, too, will pass, but that this, too, will make me better and stronger if I let it, just as my past trials did.
Calah Schlabach (’09) is a Calvin graduate who—let’s just be honest—majored in cross country and track while minoring in English and writing. After a year or so of global wandering, she discovered the sport of triathlon. Calah is currently working as a professional triathlete.