Written by: Ian Elliott
I’m just beginning to really consider the power of reminiscing.
It’s something I don’t do very often. It’s difficult. As a 30 year old leading an advertising practice with 3 other partners and living in Los Angeles, it requires that I take my foot off of the gas. As an imperfect human, it means unearthing experiences and memories I’ve probably, intentionally kept buried. As a soul trying to simply make sense of today and tomorrow, it means I have to lay down my ego and look honestly at the steps I’ve taken in this life.
At 30, I’ve accumulated enough experiences to fill an ocean.
At 60, it’s likely I’ll be able to fill a few galaxies.
At 90, I’ll have accumulated enough experiences to fill an entire universe if not multiple universes.
Cruise with me as I jump back to when I was 18… I dropped out of a respected university, left a great athletic scholarship and drove down the coast of Baja California, to surf, camp, read, be alone and figure “stuff” out.
While in central Baja, floating across signless sandy roads in my truck, I began to notice the same tire marks cut out of the powdery sand roads I’d been driving on for hours. After another go around, I realized they were mine. The evidence was damning.
I was driving in circles. I was lost.
The horizon excites my soul.
It’s what l was after; worlds unknown, new discoveries, richer perspective. The horizon calls me forward; like gravity, its force is invisible but undeniable. In this moment though, I remember looking at the horizon like it was the greatest Goliath I’d ever encountered, and I was in no way ready to call forth my inner David.
With little gas and no GPS, I pulled over.
With a decent amount of food and water, I decided to set up camp. At the time, setting up camp versus the alternative which was continue to drive aimlessly until dark felt right. Slowly, several days past. Gorgeous silence and peace collided with waves of uncertainty. The pages in my journal filled, the pages in my books turned. The water in my truck disappeared, subtly, with each sip.
Still, no one.
Then on the fifth day, I ran. I ran like a child runs at summer break, with reckless abandon, towards a pillowy cloud of thin desert dust off in the distance.
Barreling towards one another, I locked eyes with the driver and passenger. They slowed to a full stop. Breathless and about ready to keel over after my mad dash, I explained my situation to them in broken spanish. But the look on my face must have said enough, as the compassion they expressed in that moment caused tears to rush through the cracks of my skin. They helped me gather my stuff, and singled at me to follow them.
These guys, they were my David.
Using the desert’s features and limited plant life to navigate, they pressed forward in their sun bleached, rock cratered Mitsubishi pickup truck from what must’ve been circa 1982 with this magical grace, like they were floating. They went a great distance out of their way to bring me to the nearest gas station. There, I offered to buy their gas as well as get them a bite to eat and a some beer; but they refused. Instead, we exchanged smiles, a handshake and then just like they appeared they disappeared, cloaked by a cloud of desert dust.
Why? I can’t know for sure.
But in that moment they made a powerful point: to help another human being is reward enough.
That decision to leave school, that road trip around Baja California, it forever changed the trajectory of my life. Decisions can do that, some more than others. I think that to not reflect on the decisions we make and the experiences we have — to not reflect on why chose the route we chose and the things we learned from the path we took — is to intentionally handicap all future steps we make in this life.
The decision to drop out of college and road trip around Baja, that was big. There are a million moments from that trip that I can and should reflect on and digest. I could easily spend an entire weekend or holiday recalling the details of the trip, the trials and triumphs, the people and places, everything.
But that’s not realistic.
However, to carve out 30-minutes one day a week, say a Wednesday night or Saturday morning, to pursue my past like I pursue my future. I can do that.
I think we can all do that.
Experience is one of our most prized possessions.
It’s deeply edifying. It’s packed with valuable lessons that can then be applied in the very next moment, a year from then or during some distant dot in the far future.
Each experience is unique unto itself. Whether good, bad or neutral, it comes with a package of learnings and benefits.
We can’t see into the future, but by taking time to look back, we can step confidently towards any horizon. The future has no roadmap, whereas the past does. And this Roadmap of Life, it’s free. It’s ours to explore and expand. We have unlimited access to it. Let’s put it to good use.
So at 30, I’m making reminiscing mandatory.
Join me. Together, let’s make time to savor a cup of coffee as opposed to swallow it whole while on the freeway commuting to work. Let’s dive into intentionally uncharted waters instead of just wading tepidly at the surface.
Let’s look back the same way we look forward, with conviction.