The Rearview Mirror

By Sara Kellar

I am inexperienced in the ways of driving vehicles. I was a late bloomer — mostly because I could afford to be. I lived within a half-hour walk of anywhere I needed to go, and if that wasn’t the case I usually knew somebody who could drive me where I wanted to go. There was no rush, no need for me to get my driver’s license, and as a result I’m about three years behind everybody else my age who got their driving permits when they were sixteen. My reflexes haven’t been honed, and I feel uncomfortable driving large, extended cab trucks, but one of the most important pieces of knowledge that’s been passed on to me is this: Your rearview and side mirrors are your new best friends. Your backseat drivers have nothing on these mirrors. 

They’re all the rage in driving circles, or so I’ve been told. That’s probably because checking your rearview mirror is utterly necessary if you want to stay safe while driving. So much of driving depends on your ability to keep your attention focused on the road ahead of you. Forward is where most of the danger that you can prevent is going to be coming from. Forward is the direction that you’re going; therefore forward is where your eyes will be.

But sometimes, to continue forward while driving, to progress, to get to your destination, you might have to switch lanes. It’s those moments when your mirrors are crucial, because you have to look at what’s behind you.

To progress in life, sometimes you have to look behind you at the things that you’ve already passed. Sometimes you have to look in your rearview mirror to be able to move forward.

I don’t know what this past year has brought you. If I had to hazard a guess, I would think this year brought you crushing heartbreak and overwhelming joy. It probably also came along with a smattering of things in between. Maybe it was a good year, and it’s easy to look back and take in everything that you’ve gone through. On the other hand, however, maybe your year was a year of struggle. Maybe it was a year of heartbreak. Maybe it was a year of not really wanting to get out of bed in the morning. 

No matter what kind of year you had, look back while you move forward. 

It doesn’t have to be a long look. It’s more of a glance, really, because it’s important to keep your eyes on the road ahead. This glance is a chance to revel in the good memories of the year, tucking them fondly away in your mind. And if your memories happen to be the ones that you would rather forget, I assure you—this look back is necessary. It’s necessary because you aren’t there anymore. Even if you are still struggling, even if you feel like you are driving through a white-out blizzard, you are not where you were. You have progressed. You have moved forward. You are that much closer to your destination.

We’re moving forward now. It’s time to move our eyes ahead after our glance back at the year. It’s time to switch lanes because nothing from our past will overtake us. It’s on to the next year, a wide-open highway. The look back was necessary, even if things might be feeling a lot closer now than they did before you looked. 

Whatever happened, it is behind you. It is part of you. It may have defined this year, but it is not you in your entirety. You are a collage, a patchwork quilt. The memories of this past year are important because they are shaping the person you’re becoming. And it’s entirely possible that you’ve heard this many times before, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I find that sometimes we need the reminder. 

You’re in the driver’s seat of your life, and you’ve checked your mirrors. 

It’s time to move forward.

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Comments (6)

  1. Madeline

    I really love this, Sara! Very well written and very well explained and thought out.

    And don’t worry about being behind. I’m 20 and still don’t have a license. 🙂

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  2. Laura

    Great way to start off the new year.

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  3. Anonymous

    This was great! I really enjoyed it.
    I’m not sure where the appropriate place to comment this is, but I would really love if someone would write on the topic of “beating” depression (if there isn’t already something like this). As someone who has suffered from depression but is currently doing very well, I am am strongly against the term. I used it myself for a long time, but it became detrimental because if I had “beat” it, a relapse meant that I had failed. Now, I feel it is much healthier for me to always acknowledge it as something in my past, but it is still something I keep tabs on (meaning I know it is important for me to stay in tune with my mood all the time).
    Other than that, I really REALLY love the visual of driving in a blizzard and it seems as if you have gone nowhere, but you have moved forward. It is so relatable because even when I look back on years that I think were terrible the truth is that time was still moving forward, and although I may have been unhappy and unappreciative, I learned a lot
    Thank you for this post.

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  4. Anonymous

    I loved this as well. Great way of looking at the new year.

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  5. Annapurna

    Beautiful and well-put.

    2014 was a roller-coaster of a year for me: I dealt with the second half of the abuse that I went through, left my abuser (my university roommate) and went no-contact, collapsed due to the exhaustion of always having to be alert during the abuse, made peace with parts of my experience from fall ’13 that I’d been unable to deal with until this spring (again, always having to be alert: I had no time to deal with them, as I had to focus on the present) and spent a lot of time recovering, a process I’m still going through today (most of the time, I’m doing well, though I do have mild PTSD). As I wrote at the end of a MONSTER year-in-review email to a close friend who helped me to survive the abuse, “2014 changed a lot of things for me: I now have zero tolerance for bullying and abuse (it was low to begin with), I have resolved (not New Year’s-related) to never again ask, ‘why doesn’t she just leave him?’ (though I do wonder about [Canadian prime minister Stephen] Harper’s wife, Laureen: she’s definitely part of his façade, and I can’t help but wonder what goes on behind closed doors, as that’s where the bulk of my abuse happened [I’m pretty certain that Harper has narcissistic personality disorder, which my abuser also had and which I’ve learned a lot about since leaving her]. Their kids, Benjamin and Rachel, are hardly mentioned.), I won’t take crap from anyone (ya hear that, Harper?) and I sometimes struggle with PTSD. But in some ways, I’m more myself than ever: I love life more, I devote more time and energy to my faith [Eclectic Paganism] (which has deepened), my role models are more important to me than ever (yay, you and Mister Rogers!), I’m not as bothered by the negative aspects of life as much and I feel positive emotions more deeply, I’m even more honest with you [she’s always been one of the people I trust the most, and as a result she knows pretty much everything about me] and I’m more proud of who I am as a visual artist, music and dance fanatic, Pagan, lesbian, feminist and overall mentally-strong woman (and I’m stronger than ever).”

    As for driving, you’re not alone: I, too, was a bit later than “normal” when it comes to driving: got my graduated license 1 (learner’s permit) when I was eighteen, was nineteen/twenty when I got my graduated license 2 (meaning that I passed the road exam and could drive on my own, but had to behave myself, including obeying the restrictions–not driving after midnight, restriction on number of passengers, etc.) and got my regular license a year later. Thing is, I wasn’t ready to drive when I was sixteen.

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  6. Bernadette

    Very well said, My year was a mixture of sadness heartbreaks and in the end joy.

    Reply  |  
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