How many times in life have we been told the messaging “don’t look back?” Whether it be related to a career shift, the marking of the beginning or end of a relationship, a big move, or just the general ebbs and flows of life, the message of “don’t look back,” seems to be one that we’re told early on, as if to say that looking back somehow means we’ll become stuck or stagnate.
I think about my now 3-year-old son several years ago as an 8-month-old baby. He had become increasingly interested in our relatively tall, not completely baby-proof and uncarpeted staircase. Each time he’d cruise over to the bottom of the stairs and begin to venture, I’d gently tell him “not for baby.” I did my best to pique his interest in bouncy balls, loud musical toys, blocks, etc. My most audacious attempts to divert his attention continuously failed, one by one. Each was met with a persistence that I secretly marveled at. And so, I did what every good parent would do: I caved, and to the bottom of the steep staircase we went.
Once there, we gaze onward together at the mountainous obstacle that was before us. “Ok honey, Mommy’s got you. It’s ok. Don’t look back.” I repeated these words fervently, as if he needed, it, (because looking back, those words were more for me than they were for him). He was going with, or without my words of encouragement. Step by step he went, and after each one he turned with his signature Cheshire grin. He was so proud of his achievement–a newly conquered skill, and a gain of independence, all rolled into the blissful magic of accomplishing something he innately knew he could do.
Metaphorically, the stairs symbolize so many things in life: They are chapters unread, classes not taken, career challenges shied away from. They are incomplete side projects, unfinished degrees, and second languages not learned. They are races not ran, trips not taken, and words unspoken. The steps we climb…sometimes we meet them with resistance, and sometimes we meet them with persistence. We go up. We do down. We may stumble, or we may hit a near-perfect stride. Sometimes we have help, and sometimes we go it alone. On occasion the voice cheering us on belongs to another, and in our best moments, the voice cheering us on is our very own.
No matter how the steps may look for us, one thing remains certain: the journey could be immensely more promising if we harness the same drive that we once had, before a lifetime of “no’s” and cautionary tales; before we became ingrained to listen to the advice of others, rather than entrusting our own intuitive sensibilities. Because the voice that tells us to believe in our capability to climb even the tallest staircase that life puts in our path…well, that is the voice to listen to.
What if we plug away step by step, even staircase by staircase, with the steadfast notion that and no matter how high they seem from the bottom, we charge on. We look back when we want to and ahead when we need to, and when arriving at the top, take a moment to bask in the knowledge that each step had its purpose in the totality of the journey.
So keep charging friends. It doesn’t matter if your cheerleading comes from within, or if you have enough cheerleaders by your side to fill a college stadium. Whether you’re in the season of tackling steps or entire staircases, you’ve got this.
To the top!