This is part of the DadQuotes series, where I roundup the best quotes from famous figures, insightful authors, and my curious kids, and apply them to the job of parenting.
In my 20s, I lived in four countries, and backpacked through another thirty or so across five continents. I was a curious explorer, proud of my newfound cultural awareness, and embarrassed by my previously narrow American perspective.
In my 30s, I looked back on that same experience and saw something different: a lost, wandering soul, who’d sacrificed a good degree and promising career path in the name of ‘Who am I?‘
Now in my 40s, I recognize how those wandering years opened up opportunities, allowing me to work in multiple languages with people from a half-dozen countries in any given week, while raising my own multilingual kids in Barcelona (who also intimately know their Indiana roots).
Same past experience. Different present lenses.
It’s a personal spin on what Henry Glassie, a US historian at Indiana University, referred to when he said:
“History is not the past, but a map of the past, drawn from a particular point of view, to be useful to the modern traveller.”
— Henry Glassie, US historian
Like our collective history, your personal narrative is not a set of facts about what happened in the past. It’s a story that gets written, and rewritten, as you connect the dots in different ways.
And you can reconnect the dots to tell new stories.
You didn’t lose your job because you’re useless—the world is opening up a new opportunity for you.
You’re not hopelessly overweight—you chose to prioritize other things before, and now you’re ready to get in shape.
You’re didn’t permanently scar your kids with your short temper—you went through a tough phase (like parents do), and now you’re ready to show family who you really are.
You can’t change your past, but you can look at it through a different lens—one that’s useful to the present traveler, ready to set off on a new path.
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