Remember Life Must Be Lived Forward

This year I’ve done a lot of new things. One of them is taking improv classes. For those of you who don’t know what improv is, it is a form of theatre that is performed unscripted, completely made up by the performers on the spot. It’s a great way to improve communication skills and confidence.

It’s now week three for me. I’ve gone through many techniques and done countless scenes with my coursemates. It’s been pretty amazing. I find myself more daring, more comfortable expressing myself, less self-conscious, and all-around more communicative.

However, as a newbie and also someone who isn’t a comedian, there were many times I felt awkward about my responses, i.e. I thought they weren’t funny or brilliant or didn’t help continue the scene. Usually, I would’ve dwelled on those instances and beaten myself up.

But because in improv, the scenes are often short and go by really fast while you have to be completely engaged to support your partners, you don’t really have time to think back and process what you just did. You have to be in the moment and just go with it. And it’s all okay. It’s fun regardless.

By the end of the class, we would sit in a circle and shout out all the awesome things we’d done, and we would often struggle even though we’d had so much fun. It’s simply because we didn’t consciously hold onto either the good or the bad; we just moved along and enjoyed ourselves in the process.

Each of us has so many go’s so it’s pointless fixating on any of the scenes or little moments. There’s always another chance to do better, to be pleased with ourselves, to come up with something funny or brilliant, or to make a mistake and have fun with it anyway then move on to another moment.

This has really made me think about how we live our lives. As for me, I’m a deep thinker and I reflect a lot — most often on things that didn’t go well. As a result, I would torture myself with all the could’ve and should’ve and end up getting stuck in the past.

I didn’t just try to understand my life by looking backward; sometimes I also live my life backward, going over every little negative thing that happened to find hypothetical resolutions that ultimately don’t matter anymore.

I forget that there’s life happening right now that needs to be lived and demands my responses. In life, like in improv, I will likely have many go’s at most things, so I shouldn’t be dwelling on one failed experience. Instead, I should make sure I’m fully present for each experience, try my best while I’m at it, then move along with the flow of life when it’s over — not just physically but also mentally.

Well, anyhow, what’s done is done. The moment is complete, another has already arrived.

I understand embracing this way of living isn’t easy. Being present isn’t easy. Letting go of the familiarity and comfort of past experiences, even the bad ones, isn’t easy. When we walk head-straight and step into the unknown with both eyes wide-open, it can be nerve-wracking. We will have to be switched on most of the times and life can feel much more fast-paced and overwhelming. In fact, facing reality without resorting to some sort of unhealthy coping mechanisms does take A LOT of strength, courage, and resilience.

But it’s how we can make the most of this short life, of the remaining time we have, of every little moment in which we’re blessed enough to be alive and well. And what’s the alternative, really? Time doesn’t wait for any of us. Even when we live in our heads and try to fix the past with the intensity of our thoughts, the past doesn’t change and life goes on. We would only waste our own precious time.

See, many traumatic experiences have shaped me the way I am today. I’m never the same again. I’m not the same person I was this time last year or even ten months ago. While I know there’s been massive growth, what’s lost is a version of me whose wonders I had no way to ever access again.

My perspective has changed, my feelings about many things have changed, my beliefs have changed. I now get flashbacks that didn’t exist a year ago and even more things to add to my list of triggers. It’s a shame, but it happened.

And again, there’s nothing I can do to undo this. As much as I might need to grieve, like in improv, I just have to go with it. Eventually, I just have to accept these changes and keep on going. And it’s okay. I’m no longer who I used to be and it’s okay. Good or bad, I’m what I am now, and this is what I must live forward with.

After all, the present is the only place where healing can take place and amazing possibilities can become a reality. It’s where our stories are being written and good changes can happen to positively shape the course of our life. We might have lost but we have also gained plenty, and only by focusing on the present will we be able to recognise and appreciate those wonderful pay-offs.

Personally, it’s liberating to be able to allow myself to let go of the past and simply be in the moment. To think of life as a never-ending trial and error process whereby each experience is simply another go at being myself and having fun takes so much pressure off when approaching a new situation.

From now, I will do my best to keep going, trying, failing, learning, not destructively obsessing over the outcome of anything, and simply enjoying myself in the process. To me, that’s a winning strategy.

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