It’s 7:45 A.M., and I am squinting at my phone as I turn off my alarm. I instinctively open up Facebook’s push notification in a half-asleep daze to look back on the memories that I’ve apparently shared with 26 different people “On This Day.” Halfway through the scrolling, I cringe.
“On This Day in 2010…”
“On This Day in 2010 my friend and I took an completely awkward photo with a stranger who started talking to us on the bus so I could prove that I was having fun as a freshman in college.”
It terrifies me that on any given day I can stumble upon the Ghosts of Felicia’s Past.
It’s like the virtual version of running into former high school classmates at Target while home for the holidays. These digital time-turning apps have made me run into my first love that broke my heart, friends I don’t talk to anymore, and a version of Felicia that didn’t fully understand herself.
While there’s always something sentimental about naivete, the overwhelming sense of insecurity I felt back then also creeps up. It’s a lot to feel, especially at 7:48 A.M.
In some instances, I get jealous of my past self. “Damn, 2010, 2012, AND 2014 Felicia was seizing the hell out of this day! Oh, but 2017 Felicia had a bad day at work. I’ll never amount to anything.”
How have these apps made me competitive with myself?! And is that a positive or destructive behavior?
Studies have shown that “feelings of envy can then lead to Facebook users experiencing symptoms of depression,” so how do we make these morning reflections of social media nostalgia pleasant and motivational?
Here are four tips on how to use the days of yore to push towards a happy, successful, and fulfilling future:
1. Write Out How It Makes You Feel
If these virtual look-backs have you feeling some type of way, it’s time to break out a journal, scratch paper, or even your phone’s notepad, and get ready to ask yourself (and answer) some questions.
What is your gut reaction to these memories?
Embarrassed? Vulnerable? Angry? Jealous? Sad? Identifying feelings can be tough because it may bring up emotions you’ve been trying to avoid, but writing down a list of the different emotions can help you break through barriers.
How does that make you feel?
Are you embarrassed because you accidentally sent a ‘reply all’ email at work? Are you vulnerable because you opened up in a relationship? Are you angry, jealous, and/or sad because your friends have been hitting their life goals and you feel like you’re still just treading the proverbial achievement-waters?
Write down your current emotions and compare to the list of memory-driven emotions. Note the similarities between the lists, because there may be patterns and habits you have developed.
What do you want?
Making a list of goals can feel lofty and overwhelming, so decide on your framing. Maybe you want to think big picture: what is the one BIG goal you’d like to achieve eventually, and work your way down to one goal you can achieve in the next year that will help you get to the BIG goal, one goal you can achieve this month, and one goal you can achieve this week.
Alternatively, you can start small -- creating basic habits that you can do each day and next thing you know, you’ve created a lifestyle change. Regardless of how you frame it for yourself, determine what you want.
What lessons from the past can use you in the present?
Nostalgia can sometimes help us identify what we crave in our current lives. Do you miss the community feel you used to have with your soccer team? Do you miss the English teacher that pushed you to create your best work?
All of the experiences you’re having now will help you get to where you want to go.
Think about how you can apply that in your current life. Maybe you become the social chair of your office and plan happy hours for you and your colleagues. Maybe you ask your manager for more consistent feedback, or seek out a mentor. Looking to the past can help you build upon your foundation to achieve what makes you happy.
2. Embrace Nostalgia and Reach Out to Old Friends
It’s okay to think back fondly on memories of your life -- recalling the pure excitement as you embrace future adventures, the pure fear as you stepped into the unknown.
I often see my younger self taking full advantage of days of carefree bliss, before phrases like “student loans” and “apartment security deposit” were in my vocabulary. Moments like this can often leave you sentimental and longing for the past. Instead of a solo wallow sesh, reach out to the people that were surrounding and supporting you at that time.
Acknowledge the people that have seen you through everything: braces and pimples, your Lizzie McGuire phase, your bumper sticker decal obsession. They were most likely the ones that were there when you were building your dreams, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they were looking for support from their longtime friends too.
Who knows, you might create even more memories.
3. Take Note of Your Progress
Sifting through these memories, you may find yourself laughing at inside jokes in the making, smiling at dreams being formed, and head-shaking in that annoyingly all-knowing way at significant goals being achieved.
You have a new perspective. Appreciate your growth by making a list of your accomplishments, because even if you feel like you’re stuck now, a visual list can remind you how far you’ve actually come and how many possibilities are in your future. Hope you still have that pen and paper out.
What goals have you achieved?
If you’ve set goals for yourself in the past, this list will be fairly simple to produce. Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve? Finally got verified on Twitter? Became a council member for your town? Great! If you haven’t been an active goal-setter, think big picture about the life and habits you’ve imagined for yourself.
Were you a small town gal with big city dreams, and now you’re thriving in the Big Apple? Did you hope that one day you would be able to spend weekends hiking with a backpack full of trail mix? Those count, too.
What fears have you overcome?
Appreciate how far you’ve come and how many possibilities are in your future.
This does NOT mean you need to submerge yourself in a vat of cockroaches and reenact an episode of Fear Factor. Can you now give speeches when you used to feel like Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries? Have you publicly shared some of your creative work when the thought used to give you hives? You may not have developed specific goals around these fears, but it’s worth noting that you’ve spent time conquering ideas and notions that used to scare you.
What could you not have done a year ago that you are capable of now?
While this list could look similar to the lists above, ask yourself, what would I not have been able to do a year ago? This list may be filled with more unexpected and spontaneous achievements -- maybe it’s bench-pressing a certain amount of weight, or maybe belting a high C. What skills have you developed in the past year?
4. Authentically Live in the Present
My friend Tyree Boyd-Pates has a signature phrase, “trust the process.” You can have an end goal or destination -- but don’t think that there is only one path to get there.
Your journey may be winding as hell, have multiple forks with no munchkins guiding you, but everything you encounter along the way will only strengthen you. Don’t focus so much on the future that you can’t take in life lessons in the moment.
All of the experiences you’re having now will help you get to where you want to go, and perhaps more importantly, where you need to be. And that’s exciting, because I can only imagine what achievements will deserve an annoyingly all-knowing head shake in the years to come.