A few months ago, I wrote a post encouraging you to savor the moment. Since then, I have been trying to practice what I preached. As it turns out, in order to truly appreciate the present, one must maintain a healthy reflection of the past and an unwavering hope for the future.

How many people do you know can honestly claim to consistently approach life this way? Hopefully, you can name a few. I can think of a handful of people who encourage this kind of thinking in my life. While a few select peers pepper the list, the lion’s share consists of men and women who have experienced so much more than your average Gen Y-er could even begin to imagine.

And why should we?

I’ll tell you why.

A few years ago my mom and my aunt began a scrapbooking project. Together, they made two identical scrapbooks chronicling our family history. The books start with a picture of our family tree dating back to our Irish and Scottish ancestors. Then it follows them over the Atlantic and through the years until the culmination of the project: the life and times of my wonderful grandmother, may she rest in peace. Each book features photos of various family members alongside with their residences or in front of their businesses, copies of old newspaper clippings announcing tidbits of trivial information, and carefully constructed references typed up by my aunt explaining the significance of it all.

Leafing through those scrapbooks challenges my self-centered definition of the past. Each color-coded page reminds me that the past exists outside the limits of my personal memories. The extent of their investigation and dedication to detail reminds me why we, as an up and coming generation, should…no, need to acknowledge and learn from the experiences of those who went before us. We need it because, as much as we would like to think that everything in our lives stems from and revolves around us and our decisions, our past, present, and future are, in fact, built on the combined experiences of those who came before us, those currently around us, and those who will someday grace us with their presence.

Those people you listed earlier? Consider them your own, personal, living, breathing scrapbooks. Cherish them. Learn from them. Your past will never be the same.


Up next: Hoping for the future